By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The missing context in the IRS scandal

Here’s an assignment for some enterprising journalist: Try to find out how many conservative 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) groups were formed in, say, 2009 through 2011 and compare that to the number of liberal groups formed during the same time period.

Only then can we judge how outrageous it was for some IRS employees to be searching for terms like “tea party” and “patriot” in attempting to crack down on tax-code abuse.

You drop your line where the fish are, you know?

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  1. Well, if they were “dropping their line” by searching for 501(c)(*), and coming up with a lot of tea party groups, then fine. But if they were searching for TP and Patriot groups, then, not so much. And that’s what has been reported, so let’s have an investigation. This one, at least, seems like real malfeasance, in contrast to other pseudo-scandals the Republicans have been trying to push.

  2. Diane Patry

    Dan, your point is exactly the question I’ve been having.
    On a different angle (which I doubt many share): If any group has nothing to hide, why do they get so upset about being audited? I personally was audited a few years back; no worries, no problem, and quickly resolved.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Diane: No one is getting audited! I’ve already seen this misinformation spewing from Darrell Issa’s mouth. These groups were asking for something special — a tax exemption — and they specifically applied to the IRS, which is supposed to scrutinize every one of them. I do think this is scandalous if there was a politically motivated attempt to single out tea party groups, but it strikes me as more likely that the IRS was — clumsily — just trying to cut to the chase.

  3. Patricia Bennett

    Dan, I have to disagree with your assumption. I would’ve felt better about this if the IRS was indeed just targeting ALL new 501c groups, but singling out “Tea Party”, “Patriot”, etc…. you don’t find that chilliing? What if the shoe were on the other foot, Republican administration, IRS targeting liberal idealogues – you and Diane (above) would say it’s OK? No, this stinks. Good on the IRS head to admit what has been going on. I just hope its not an attempt to defray something larger.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Patricia: I’m not saying I approve. I’m just saying we need to look at this in a larger context. First of all, have we seen a report that any conservative group was denied 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status despite meeting the legal criteria? Maybe we will, but nothing yet. Second, the IRS without explanation has put a halt in recent years to approving 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for news organizations. The Chicago News Cooperative went under as a result, and I recently heard of another very troubling case. Yet everyone simply treats it as something within the IRS’s purview. I’ve heard nothing that makes me care more about the tea party groups than I do about other groups.

  4. You are ‘dropping your line’ into a black pool… (read: pre-opinion as a template for an open inquiry). That’s fair; but NOT. It is bloggishly-opinionated. If we are to throw the discussion into the larger context… let’s throw it ALL in … ALL of Washington and our legislative dialogue… into the context of the generic “insider trading”… et al. We are ‘INSIDE’ the hologram of our self-governess and in BIG TROUBLE! The Fourth Estate is on a slippery slope; trying to survive (reflective of business model efficacy vs, ethics questions vis a vis content-creation/manipulation). Today, to name but a few topical ‘talking’ points we have a ‘Benghazi’ inquiry, i.e. authenticity (for a future political candidate, or NOT; an IRS singularity and a assymetrical audit scrutiny; now even the journalistic-internal-intangible-spongeable-emphemereal Bloomberg (blackbox) ethics conundrum. The latter is the ultimate pandora-black-box of financial information that is subscriber-based and hardwired? (a Rubik’s cube of a rolodex inbred on incestuous financial analysis) But, NOW, maybe not so sancrosanct? Who knew. Who wants to know? “An enigma inside a riddle shrouded in mystery.” — WC

  5. Talk about having your head in the sand. You really can’t see what they’re doing, can you?

    Big Government tyrants like Bush and Obama don’t like it when the commoners investigate and openly criticize their intrusive and tyrannical policies.

    That is why Obama has been relentlessly persecuting Bradley Manning, who had the nerve to release purposely over-classified documents, detailing the war crimes of our military, the incompetence, corruption and utter buffoonery of our diplomats and other assorted bureaucratic goofballs. He turned the lights on those cockroaches and we see them scurrying around and jailing the messenger for attempting to inform the American people of what their own stupid “leaders” were up to.

    And, like Obama, the Bush Administration harassed citizens groups too, especially civil liberties and anti-war groups (

    It’s a power thing with the psychopaths who rule over us. But the gullible Americans remain clueless. Talk about “boiling frogs.” As Hayek observed, the worst get to the top. It is our centralized government monopolies which attract those seeking power and dominance, the worst of the worst.

    Obama and his flunkies of the FBI and IRS and all the other dirty 3-letter word agencies of the fedgov have been harassing critics of the current War Regime, the current inflicters of SovietCare medical chaos, and, of course, those who favor “small government.” (But let’s let the central planners’ bureaucracy just get bigger and bigger, never-ending big-big, so that it will all collapse on its own weight, and we won’t need any stinkin’ 501(c)(3)s to try to restore our freedom.)

    So, this scandal isn’t the IRS “cracking down on tax-code abuse,” as you call it. If you really believe that, then you are a “sheeple.”

    • Mike Benedict

      Haha. Find the Democrat at the FBI.

  6. Dan, your ideological slant in this regard is disappointing to me.

    It is nothing short of NIXONIAN, and the subpoenas should fly. I agree with Obama – what the IRS has done is OUTRAGEOUS.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Pete: What are you, an Obama toady? Not me! Heh, heh.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Pete: P.S. You want Obama acting like Nixon? Here you go. And unlike the IRS scandal, Obama’s not going to call this “outrageous.”

  7. That’s more like it!

  8. Lou Gawab

    **You drop your line where the fish are, you know?**

    Could you have come up with a more prejudicial way to present this?

  9. “You drop your line where the fish are” is the most apt comment I’ve seen on the whole tzimmis. The problem is that it tacks an arguably partisan POV onto a commentary calling for a non-partisan journalistic investigation. Otherwise, your fishing analogy hits the nail smack on the head..

  10. “Try to find out how many conservative 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) groups were formed in, say, 2009 through 2011 and compare that to the number of liberal groups formed during the same time period.”

    This data is now available in the IRS’s Inspector General report:

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