With public outrage about the Citizens United decision growing, it’s good to see other smokescreens for hiding big money political donors from the public being outed. The New York Times editorial “The I.R.S. Does Its Job” calls attention to a tea party charade that both hides the identity of conservative political donors and soaks American taxpayers:
Taxpayers should be encouraged by complaints from Tea Party chapters applying for nonprofit tax status at being asked by the Internal Revenue Service to prove they are “social welfare” organizations and not the political activists they so obviously are.
Tea Party supporters claim they are being politically harassed with extensive I.R.S. questionnaires. But the service properly contends that it must ensure that these groups are “primarily” engaged in social welfare, not political campaigning, to merit tax exemption under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code.
Such I.R.S. inquiries are long overdue and should be applied across the board to the growing number of organizations, allied with the major political parties, that are also ludicrously posing as “social welfare” groups. Legitimate social welfare organizations are allowed limited political activity. But these political offshoots are using that tax status in a transparent ploy to keep big donors secret while funneling the money to campaigns. Chief among these groups are American Crossroads, the campaign machine created by Republican guru Karl Rove, and Priorities USA, the Democratic counterpart founded by former White House aides, now openly encouraged by President Obama as he runs for re-election.
The editorial cites other groups like “the conservative American Action Network, a “social welfare” claimant reported by the Center for Public Integrity to have spent more than 80 percent of its expenditures on the 2010 elections; and Americans Elect, a third-party effort enjoying “social welfare” secrecy as it secures ballot space across the nation.” The editorial rightly commends the I.R.S. for doing “its duty to enforce the tax code and root out political operatives who are abusing the law and conning taxpayers and voters. ”