The facts aren’t all in, but my first reaction to news that some in the IRS took a special interest in investigating tea party-related organizations?
Let’s say you’re the at the IRS, and your job is investigating people who might be breaking the law. You have some groups that have tea party in their name, who:
- By their very name, allude to our nation’s most famous tax protest.
- By their very mission, suggest an inclination to consider many federal laws inapplicable.
- By their very actions, engage in a substantial amount of activity that qualifies as direct and/or grassroots lobbying, something which can trigger strict reporting requirements at the federal level, and at the state level, too.
If the IRS staffer sitting in front of a whole stack of tax filings has to decide who to investigate, doesn’t it make sense to lower the horns in the general direction of groups waving those particular red capes?
I’m not worried about a chilling effect. Are these groups complaining about having to do everything 100% by the book? We regulate 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and 527 PACs pretty tightly, and everybody’s got to play by the rules.
Update – you won’t be surprised to know that the IRS often gets urged to look into whether a group should lose tax exempt status, often by people who oppose what the group is doing. Case in point: House Ways & Means committee members, Republicans, urging the IRS to look into the AARP because of their advocacy on healthcare.