TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1239

IRS Logo 2Breitbart, Anti-Israel J Street Wants the IRS Scandal to Continue:

J Street, the far-left organization that styles itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace” but in practice works to lobby against Israel in Congress and the media, is continuing its pursuit of conservative pro-Israel non-profit groups as if the IRS scandal had never happened.

In 2010, J Street began pressuring the U.S. Treasury to investigate pro-Israel non-profit groups and charities that spent money in the West Bank, accusing them of fueling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by supporting Israeli settlements. (When pressed to explain why J Street was not also asking the federal government to investigate Islamic charities in the U.S. that may spend money on anti-Israel causes, J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami memorably said: “I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities.”)

J Street’s efforts were part of a broad campaign by the Democratic Party and its senior leadership, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, to encourage the IRS to investigate conservative non-profit groups and charities. As Wall Street Journalcolumnist Kimberley Strassel documents in her new book, The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech, these efforts, encouraged by President Barack Obama, helped encourage the illegal behavior in the IRS scandal.

One of the groups singled out for discrimination by the IRS was the pro-Israel non-profit group Z Street, which was meant to be a counter-weight to J Street (which is itself a non-profit, with a separate political action committee). Like Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations seeking recognition from the IRS at the time, Z Street faced additional, unusual scrutiny, which included questions that challenged the group’s political beliefs — which are none of the federal government’s business.

In 2010, Matthew Hausman of the Jewish Policy Center noted that the discrimination against of Z Street “occurred not long after the left-wing organization J Street announced its campaign to lobby the Treasury Department to revoke the tax-exempt status of Jewish charities that support religious and cultural institutions in Judea and Samaria.” Z Street is still fighting, and winning, legal battles against the IRS. But other than that, the culprits in the IRS scandal remain unpunished and unashamed. ...

J Street’s shameless effort to encourage Treasury and the IRS to continue the abuse of pro-Israel, conservative groups right where they left off is not only a sign of how dangerous the group is to the future of free speech and freedom of assembly in the U.S., but also a warning of the kind of abuse conservatives can expect under a Hillary Clinton administration if she wins. Clinton has vowed to repeal Citizens United, and wants the IRS to have the authority to do legally what it once did illegally.

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