Still not a smidgen of corruption.
Perhaps the biggest fiction of this past year was that the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups has been confronted, addressed and fixed. The opposite is true. The White House has used the scandal as an excuse to expand and formalize the abuse.
About a month after the IRS inspector general released his bombshell report about IRS targeting of conservative groups last May, Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel unveiled a “plan of action” for correcting the mess. One highlight was that targeted groups would be offered a new optional “expedited” process for getting 501(c)(4) status.
The deal, which received little public attention, boiled down to this: We’ll do our job, the IRS said, if you give up your rights. Those taking part in the “expedited” process had to agree to limit to 40% the amount of spending and time (calculated by employee and volunteers hours) they spend on political activity. Current 501(c)(4) rules allow political spending up to 49%, and have no “time” component. The clear point of the “deal” was to use the lure of 501(c)(4) approval to significantly reduce the political activity of targeted conservative groups going forward.
Some groups, desperate to get their tax exemption, took the deal. Others refused to be victimized twice. One of them is the Tea Party Patriots, run by Jenny Beth Martin, who told me that she didn’t feel it was right that”every other 501(c)(4) would get to live under a different standard than those of us who had been targeted, and had been waiting for a determination for years.” She let the deadline for using the expedited process pass.
Not long after, the IRS was back hounding the Tea Party Patriots with new requirements. In addition to re-demanding information that Ms. Martin’s group had already supplied, the IRS insisted on new details, like the groups’ fundraising letters from 2012. Cleta Mitchell, an attorney representing targeted groups, tells me one of her clients suffered the same fate. The IRS called to ask if the group would take part in its expedited process. When it turned down the IRS, the government agency hit the group with new questions about its activities. This all happened last summer.
As of last week, Ms. Martin’s group had been waiting three years and three months for its 501(c)(4) letter. (Before Mr. Obama was president, the average time was three weeks.) The targeting has had its intended effect: Ms. Martin notes that supporters of her group have asked to be dissociated, for fear of their own IRS audit.