The IRS should be embarrassed by revelations that it singled out Tea Party Patriot groups for extra scrutiny after they applied for 501(c)4 status. Not because scrutinizing these groups was wrong. But because the IRS did not deny them such status.
That’s right. None of these groups deserve to be considered 501(c)4 organizations. Neither do liberal groups. As Lawrence O’Donnell has pointed out on his show, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, that designation is supposed to be reserved for groups that promote the social welfare. In fact, the tax code describes qualifying organizations as “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”
What in that code describes the Tea Party?
Tea Party groups that have received the designation have almost entirely devoted their money and time to attack President Obama, Democratic candidates, progressive issues and the federal government. How does that meet the criteria of promoting social welfare?
Amazingly, despite the increased scrutiny, not a single Tea Party organization was denied 501(c)4 status. The same cannot be said for progressive groups. During the same period, numerous progressive groups were also asked to submit more information (I was involved with one), and, unlike the Tea Party, some progressive groups were denied non-profit status!
Congress and the IRS need to revisit the tax codes governing political groups. They should also take a serious look at the tax-free status of churches.
The Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” The tax-free status of churches flies in the face of this clause by forcing those who do not choose to belong to a church to indirectly subsidize religion through taxes. Indeed, it was because some states forced residents to subsidize churches that James Madison included the establishment clause in his Bill of Rights.
By declaring all church property (including church-owned hospitals and other income-producing businesses) tax-exempt, the rest of us have to make up for the lost revenue through increased taxes. And this amount is not insubstantial. Some reports claim that as much as 25 percent of all US property is tax-exempt for religious purposes.
If this public subsidy of churches is not bad enough, many churches intentionally involve themselves in politics contrary to IRS codes governing their tax-free status. In fact, hundreds of churches have not only campaigned from the pulpit. They have recorded their political rants and sent the videos to the IRS to show their contempt for the codes. During the last election, many churches (the Catholic Church primary among them) even told their members that they would “go to hell if they voted for President Obama.” Yet the IRS refused to enforce its own codes.
Now that’s a real IRS scandal!