FLASHBACK: NY Times defended IRS targeting tea party groups in 2012

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Back when leaders of tea party groups were just alleging their organizations were being targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, The New York Times defended the agency for applying extra scrutiny to the conservative groups.

“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,” a New York Times editorial, “The I.R.S Does Its Job,” from March. 7, 2012 began.

“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.”

In the editorial, The New York Times did suggest that such scrutiny should be “applied across the board.”

“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,” the editorial states.

“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.”

It continued:

These groups, which already have 501(c)(4) status, should be as thoroughly investigated as any tea party chapter applying for that tax exempt status. So should two other blatant offenders: 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.

All these groups should be operating as political organizations required to disclose their donors under the law. Blatant abuses of tax law and common sense are part of the laissez-faire dynamic that is driving the 2012 campaigns. The I.R.S. must not flinch from its duty to enforce the tax code and root out political operatives who are abusing the law and conning taxpayers and voters.

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