One thing I missed in my first reading of yesterday’s press conference was the detail that President Obama gave to the IRS portion of the press question. For those of you who also missed it:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me take the IRS situation first. I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday. And this is pretty straightforward.
If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous and there’s no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they’re applying it in a non-partisan way — applying the laws in a non-partisan way.
If, in fact?
From what is being reported and corroborated by multiple sources, there is no “If, in fact,” here. It happened and it happened on your watch Mr. President.
What is becoming now, more evident within some of the main stream media, is that the Obama Administration, is in complete disarray, and lacking even the basic skills for the job for which they were elected.
Over the weekend, the IRS scandal got even more bizarre.
Various news organizations got a look at a still-unreleased report by the inspector general (IG) for tax administration at the Treasury Department. According to the report, IRS official Lois Lerner knew about the problem by June 2011; yet in March 2012, IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman told Congress ‘that the agency was not targeting conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status as ‘social welfare’ groups.’
But, according to the IG report, the IRS was not only targeting tea party organizations; it was going after ‘groups focused on government spending, government debt, taxes, and education on ways to ‘make America a better place to live.’’ It also started targeting groups criticizing the government or educating Americans about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Just as outrageous are the revelations that the IRS may have gone after some Jewish groups for political reasons. The Jewish Press is reporting that a pro-Israel organization was told by an agent that it was being subjected to additional scrutiny because it was ‘connected with Israel.’ Its application (along with other Jewish groups) was assigned to ‘a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.’ One Jewish religious organization was required to state whether it ‘supports the existence of the land of Israel’ and to describe its ‘religious belief system toward the land of Israel.’
It is probably needless to point out that none of these issues has anything to do with whether a nonprofit should be granted tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. As the IRS itself explains, this section covers social welfare organizations that ‘operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.’ While they can’t participate or intervene in political campaigns, they can ‘engage in some political activities, so long as that is not [their] primary activity.’
And seeking (or opposing) legislation—for instance, fighting against Obamacare, which was the germinating factor for many tea party organizations—‘is a permissible means of attaining social welfare purposes,’ according to the IRS.
Whether or not you agree with the Administration’s policies or whether you criticize the expansion of government or its excessive debt are not a consideration under the Revenue Code to qualify for tax-exempt status. Apparently, the IRS finally realized that, because according to The Washington Post, it changed its tactics in May 2012 to focus on ‘organizations with indicators of significant amounts of political campaign intervention.’ Despite that change, dozens of conservative organizations are still waiting to receive their tax exemptions.
We will know more when the Treasury Department’s IG report is finally released. But it should be kept in mind that the use of the IRS to target political opponents of an Administration is one of the greatest dangers of the tremendous power of this federal agency. That is why federal law (26 U.S.C. § 7217) prohibits any employee of the executive office of the President and Vice President, as well as Cabinet secretaries, from requesting ‘directly or indirectly’ that the IRS investigate ‘any particular taxpayer with respect to the tax liability of such taxpayer.’
It’s unclear who in the IRS or elsewhere supported or condoned the wrongful conduct at issue, but it is important for the rule of law and the interests of justice that Congress aggressively pursue its oversight function to get to the bottom of this scandal and, most importantly, who instigated and authorized it.
The post IRS-Gate appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation.
(Via The Foundry.)