TaxProf Blog

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

Friday, August 3, 2012

NY Times: IRS Reviews Tax-Exempt Status of § 501(c)(4) Political Groups

New York Times editorial:  Further Review for Secret Donations:

The ploy of disguising secretly financed political machines as tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations has become one of the alarming trademarks of modern, big-money politics. Under cover of the tax code, the identities of donors are kept secret while they pay for attack ads against candidates, all the while claiming their main purpose is civic and nonpartisan. Operatives from both parties have gotten deep into this shell game.

Fortunately, the IRS is, at last, promising to review and consider changing 50-year-old rules governing the limits of political activity for social welfare nonprofits that enjoy exemptions under § 501(c)(4) of the tax code. ... The IRS, citing “current public interest in this issue,” promised a review after receiving complaints from the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 — watchdog groups that have been tracking the ballooning use of the “social welfare” guise to finance classic hardball politics. It is ludicrous to perceive Karl Rove, the canny Republican strategist and money raiser, as primarily nonpartisan and civic-minded as he tools up his Crossroads GPS operation with plans to spend millions of dollars during this year’s elections. Envious Democrats are following suit with attack machines of their own.

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I won't hold my breath.

Posted by: BillyMark | Aug 3, 2012 11:34:53 AM

MoveOn needs to call for the IRS to move on.

Let's face it: even churches can be highly ideological and therefore partisan in effect if not in name. No bright line can be drawn that will separate partisan from genuinely non-partisan and non-ideological activities.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Aug 4, 2012 2:18:06 PM