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Obama’s political IRS, free speech targeting and campaign finance

That the treatment of so many tea party and other conservative groups applying for tax exempt status by the Obama Administration’s Internal Revenue Service has been a scandal is not dependent on evidence of specific direction from the White House nor even that only the 501(c)(4) applications of Republican opponents were delayed; inside-the-beltway conventional wisdom to the contrary.

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But that such political targeting had taken place was already obvious – given Lois Lerner’s belated post-2012 campaign disclosure; evidence subsequently developed by Republican-headed committees in the House of Representatives of long (up to 18 months and counting) delayed and still-open applications unique to groups including the words tea, party and/or patriot in their names and the dearth of liberal groups producing similar evidence Chief Executive Obama’s angry firing of now former acting IRS Director Steve Miller; and reports that the Miller’s predecessor visited the Obama White House more often than PLO Terrorist Yassir Arafat slept in Lincoln’s bedroom in between FOB (Friend of Bill, and Hillary Clinton) political-favor rentals –  even before we learned yesterday that:

The congressional investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea-party groups inched closer to the White House yesterday as testimony from three IRS attorneys indicated lawyers in the agency’s chief counsel’s office were involved in reviewing the applications of tea-party groups for tax exemption. The office is led by William Wilkins, one of two IRS officials appointed by President Obama.

Now, even Fox News’ pet liberal Democrat and Obama apologist Juan Williams has acknowledged and denounced the obvious targeting of Obama’s political opponents; and admittedly the scandalous nature of the use of the most hated, yet necessary evil, agency of federal government as a political arm of Democratic Party and President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign,  would increase exponentially if smoking gun memos signed by Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett or The Messiah himself are found directing IRS offices in Cincinnati and others across the Fruited Plain to audit, intimidate and delay the tax exempt organization applications thereof.

But this column has long argued that just as vultures circling over dead carcasses require no conspiracy to get in formation, neither do like-minded liberal bureaucrats need pied White House pipers to provide rhythm for the practice of intimidating conservatives daring to invade their, heretofore, nearly exclusively liberal “social welfare” tax exempt world. Republicans must not allow themselves to once again have the goalposts moved by the media and other liberal Democrats in defining a scandal as only when Hillary Clintons are found holding smoking guns while hovering over the still warm, bullet-riddled bodies of Vince Fosters. President Obama repeatedly issued marching orders demonizing tea partiers; and even attacked the Supreme Court itself, to its face, while a captive audience at his first State of Union address, as the supposed Pandora who opened the Box of evil “special interest” corporate money into politics.

And it is to this red Citizens United herring that Juan Williams returns to defend a President Obama forced to acknowledge improper targeting of conservative groups (never mind that even if ALL groups were required to reveal the content of their prayers before being granted tax-exempt status, the IRS would have been acting improperly, but I digress):

While Miller and low-level IRS folks are being led to symbolic, professional slaughter the rich and the politically powerful have a “Get-Out-of-Jail- Free” pass. The biggest player going scot-free here is the Supreme Court. Make no mistake about it: the original sin of the IRS scandal is the Supreme Court’s ruling on campaign finance that opened the floodgates to unlimited “dark money” contributions to influence elections. In their 2010 decision in the “Citizens United” case, they ruled in favor of unlimited political donations by corporations, unions and others with specific and clear special interests…

 

The law, including the tax code, is the law as interpreted by the courts. That is their job. But the High Court’s ruling erased the old rules and did not establish any new ones…Millions of dollars were spent (and are still being spent) to influence elections under the guise of  “social welfare.” And the people doing it are underwriting it using loopholes in the tax code. The calculating, big money players have long wanted to keep their donations secret. Citizens United allowed them to give all the money they wanted without having their names attached to it. (emphasis added)

 

We actually agree with certain aspects of Williams’ critique of present tax exemption rules and laws, which we address below, but the original erasing of the old rules was not accomplished by the judicial branch. The “oldest rule” is among the first in the Bill of Rights that declares that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” All of the Federalist Papers and other evidence of the intent of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution was that the “speech” about which Congress was to pass NO law was, specifically, political speech. It did not refer to the public dissemination of profanity, defamation of character or the symbolic messages communicated by crosses-immersed-in-urine “art.” Nor did it make any distinction between speech financed singularly by individuals or in association with others, even in, egad!, corporations.

Yet, Congresses, beginning with Woodrow Wilson-like progressives and continuing through today’s McCains and Feingolds, have regularly ignored the supreme law of the land ratified by two-thirds of both of its houses and three-quarters of state legislatures, in favor of mere laws passed by temporary majorities with the intent of ensuring job security for incumbents, whose status ensures easier fundraising from those at their legislative mercy.

Thankfully, in this instance, Chief Obamacare Justice John Roberts and his Planned Parenthood/Gay marriage Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy didn’t forget their conservative raisin’ when throwing out the “new” laws that restricted corporate contributions that have handicapped Republican campaign fundraising for decades. Sadly, the individual contribution restrictions, that Ronald Reagan said would have ensured that he never run for President as a 24/7/365 beggar, were not at issue in the Citizens United case.

But Juan is right to bemoan the “social welfare” guise and non-disclosure loophole in today’s tax laws; yet, like so many, including even many learned conservative commentators, he too makes too direct a connection between the seminal 2010 Supreme Court decision and the particular 501(c)(4) vehicle for corporate-funded campaign activity.

You will search the Constitution in vain for any right to tax exempt status for charities and churches (including First Amendment-protected religions, no less) much less an organization that under the 1981 iteration:

“…may carry on lawful political activities and remain exempt under section 501(c)(4) as long as it is primarily engaged in activities that promote social welfare.” (emphasis added)

Such social welfare exemptions were first introduced into the tax code soon after the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment, again, by “progressives” and while charitable deductions and many others have long been utilized by Americans across the political spectrum, the “social welfare” category with its weaselly “primarily engaged” definition, had long been the near-exclusive bastion of liberal  groups lobbying for the welfare of snail and other job darters, before Citizens United. Moreover, given the prospective definition of social welfare engagement, only after an organization has operated for a campaign season would a Lois Lerner be able to discern if a non-felon that had not previously abused tax exemption laws “qualified” before their organization is off and running, but again, I digress.

The fact is that whether or not an individual or any organization, including corporations, are granted tax exemptions or associated deductions by an income tax code (or even if no income tax law existed), the First Amendment should prevent Congress from passing laws that restrict their contributions to individual campaigns and political parties (both of which remain in place), much less to more generalized political activity designed to merely “inform” the public about legislation and issues.

There should be NO LAW restricting political speech, which obviously includes the financing thereof. There should and can be laws that require disclosure. If we eliminated those unconstitutional restrictions, there would be less “need” for 501(c)’s as numerous as stars and an IRS code as expansive as the universe they occupy. Moreover, government bureaucrats should not be about the business of parsing words such as “social”, “welfare” and “primarily” to the detriment of their political opponents.

There is enough subterfuge involved in defining “charities” and “churches” to keep a good bureaucrat busy, but after all, if one says they are a religion, who are we to deny it? Yet, while in private practice in the 1990s, churches and Parent Teacher Associations I helped filed for tax exempt status routinely had to wait weeks for an IRS agent to answer my mail. And in our politicized PC Police world, how can anyone get through a day not primarily engaged in “politics” as broadly defined by some liberal Democrat in Obama’s IRS?

Mike DeVine‘s Right.com

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson

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