The I.R.S Was Right, Obama Caves Again

It’s happening again. Another imaginary crisis, and instead of fighting back, the President   agrees with his enemies and starts making concessions.  He should be defending the I.R.S.  employees who have been doing  their jobs under difficult circumstances.  As a careful reading of the Inspector General's Report shows, there is no scandal.  Well, let’s put it this way:  there are scandals at the I.R.S., but this isn’t one of them.  Look instead to the under-regulation of huge political organizations such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads.

 graph2.jpg

The Build-Up

As the 2012 elections approached, there was a marked increase in the number of organizations applying to the I.R.S. for status as Social Welfare Organizations known as 501(c)(4)s . Such groups may participate in electoral politics as long as it is not their primary purpose, and they do not need to disclose their contributors.  If this increase in Social Welfare Organizations was simply an indication that the world was becoming a kinder place, then one would expect to see a similar rise in the number of public charities, a huge category that includes not-for-profit senior centers, schools, hospitals and most social change organizations known as 501(c)(3)s,  There was no comparable increase, as the chart to the right shows[1]. One might reasonably suspect, given the proximity of the election, that political organizations with no primary social welfare function were trying to gain 501(c)(4) status in order to hide the identity of their contributors. 

What the I.R.S. Looked for “Inappropriately”

The I.R.S. has been charged with using “inappropriate criteria” for determining which applications should be given extra scrutiny as “political cases.” Here is the list of “inappropriate” criteria from the Inspector General’s Report (p. 6)

Figure 3: Criteria for Potential Political Cases (June 2011)

  1. “Tea Party,” “Patriots” or “9/12 Project” is referenced in the case file.
  2. Issues include government spending, government debt or taxes.
  3. Education of the public by advocacy/lobbying to “make America a better place to live”
  4. Statement in the case file criticizes how the country is being run

Source: EO function briefing dated June 2011

Clearly, only the first I.R.S. category applies to specific right wing organizations; the rest of the criteria could apply just as well to centrist or progressive groups. 

As the graph below shows, only 33 percent of the applications singled out for further processing had the name Tea Party, 9/12[1] or Patriot in their names.  But what about those named groups:  was it unfair to single out the Tea Party for additional scrutiny?  No, not at all. The I.R.S. was right to have done so. Consider this. What does the word “party” mean? It can indicate an individual person, it can be an event at which tea is served, or it can be a political party. None of these meets the criteria of being a Social Welfare Organization. The I.R.S. staff was therefore called upon to determine whether Tea Party means political party, or whether these groups are something else that might let them qualify for 501(c)(4) status.

pie_chart2.jpg

Significantly, Roll Call, [2] the on-line publication that covers Congress, reports that over 104 groups with “Tea Party”, “Patriot,” or “9/12” in their titles have registered themselves with the I.R.S. in the category known as 527 that includes political parties, political committees, candidate committees, and PACS. One can easily understand why, when some groups with these names register as electoral organizations, the I.R.S. might question why other groups with the same names are calling themselves Social Welfare Organizations. Roll Call suggests that some of these groups may have tried to register twice or may have set up separate accounts in each category, a possibility that certainly would warrant further checking.

The Inspector General Actually Agrees With the I.R.S. Staff

“We reviewed all 298 applications that had been identified as potential political cases as of May 31, 2012. In the majority of cases, we agreed that the applications submitted included indications of significant political campaign intervention. However, we did not identify any indications of significant political campaign intervention for 91 (31 percent) of the 296 applications.”[3]

 That statement was followed by these two footnotes:

Seventeen (19 percent) of the 91 applications involved Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 organizations.

It should also be noted that, in some cases, specialists obtained additional information after the application was received that indicated the organizations were involved in political campaign intervention which was not available in the initial application documentation we reviewed.

So, I.R.S. staff got it right two-thirds of the time in deciding which applications needed a closer look by a higher body at the I.R.S. Now the Republicans want them arrested and the President is acting as if something awful has happened.   

What Is Really Going On Here?

Of course this is just speculation, but perhaps the Obama administration is happy to have so much attention focused on the treatment of a handful of little local groups. It keeps everyone from noticing the failure of the I.R.S. to regulate the huge 501(c)(4) organizations that spend hundreds of millions on political campaign advertising.  Some of these are right wing, such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, but others, such as Priorities USA, were founded by former Obama aides to suppo[i]rt his campaign.  Did these groups really spend more on social welfare activities than on campaign ads?  If there is a scandal, it is probably here. (For an excellent discussion of this, see Uneven I.R.S. Scrutiny. NY Times 5/14/2012.) These groups exist because of the Citizens United decision and the notion that corporations are people with constitutional rights to influence elections. Obama should take advantage of the I.R.S. flap to attack the role of corporate money in politics.



[1] Chart based on data from the Inspector General’s Report Pg. 3

[2] 9/12 organizations were inspired by Glenn Beck of Fox News in 2009. They have something to do with 9 principles and 12 values.

[3] http://blogs.rollcall.com/moneyline/I.R.S.-records-available-showing-over-100-tea-party-or-patriot-or-912-groups/ May 17, 2013

[4] Inspector General’s Report at p. 10



 

Grassroots Fundraising: Paying for the Revolution (9pm Eastern)

June 23, 2017
· 46 rsvps

Are you new to socialist organizing? Or after many years do you still struggle, raising money from members when you need it but without a steady flow of income or budget to plan ahead? Are you afraid to tackle fundraising because it seems so daunting or you are uncomfortable asking people for money?

In this webinar, you will learn why fundraising is organizing, and how to do it – face to face, through fundraising events, and other ideas.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

Instructor:

  • Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

Training Details:

  1. Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have preferably headphones or else speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt talt@igc.org.
  5. If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt schmittaj@gmail.com 608-355-6568.
  6. Participation requires that you register at least 21 hours in advance -- by midnight Thursday for Friday's webinar.

NOTE: This training is scheduled for 9:00pm Eastern Time (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific, 5 pm Alaska, 3 pm Hawaii).

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 68 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"
WHEN: 9PM EST, 6PM PST

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/9173276528

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 8 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.