Washington Post, Fallout From Allegations of Tea Party Targeting Hamper IRS Oversight of Nonprofits:
Years of conservative attacks on the Internal Revenue Service have greatly diminished the ability of agency regulators to oversee political activity by charities and other nonprofits, documents and interviews show.
The fall in oversight, a byproduct of repeated cuts to the IRS budget, comes at a time when the number of charities is reaching a historic high and they are becoming more partisan and financially complex.
It represents a success for conservatives who have long sought to scale back the IRS and shrink the federal government. They capitalized on revelations in 2013 that IRS officials focused inappropriately on tea party and other conservative groups based on their names and policy positions, rather than on their political activity, in assessing their applications for tax-exempt status. Among conservatives, the episode has come to be known as the “IRS targeting scandal.”
Under the federal tax code, charities may not directly or indirectly support a political candidate, but they are allowed to participate in educational debates about the issues. Other nonprofits known as social welfare groups may be involved in politics, but only as long as it is not their primary purpose.
The main part of government tasked with policing those lines, the IRS’s Exempt Organizations division, has seen its budget decline from a peak of $102 million in 2011 to $82 million last year. At the same time, division employees have fallen from 889 to 642.
The division now lacks expertise, resources and the will needed to effectively oversee more than 1.2 million charities and tens of thousands of social welfare groups, according to interviews with two dozen nonprofit specialists and current and former IRS officials.
“This completely neutered them,” said Philip Hackney, a tax law professor at Louisiana State University and former Exempt Organizations lawyer at the IRS. “The will is totally gone.” ...
Conservatives have likened the IRS’s extra scrutiny of the tea party groups to Watergate and called it a political witch hunt. Among the leading critics was Cleta Mitchell, a veteran Republican activist and nonprofit lawyer. In 2014, she told a House oversight panel that Congress ought to abolish the IRS, saying the agency “is so corrupt and so rotten to the core that it cannot be salvaged.”
But while investigations by Congress and federal agencies found that IRS officials selected tea party groups for added attention, the investigators concluded there was no proof of political intent, a liberal conspiracy or White House involvement. ...
More charities have now begun to recognize they face little chance of an examination or sanction, which can involve terminating a group’s tax-exempt status and the ability of its donors to deduct their contributions, specialists said. “More and more groups are going to discover that they get away with doing politics,” said Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a law professor at Notre Dame and a former nonprofit lawyer. ...
In interviews and an email exchange with The Post, Mitchell said the investigations failed to highlight the essence of IRS wrongdoing. She maintains the scandal was grounded in abusive, politically motivated targeting, as chronicled by the Issa report in 2014. “I have no intention of ‘schooling’ anyone on why the IRS / Obama / Democrats’ narrative is wrong,” she wrote. “I’m not going to get into an argument to try to convince you of why that narrative is wrong. It just is. You either believe it or you don’t and if you don’t think there was a Political targeting scandal, then you don’t need to talk to me.”
Miriam Galston, a law professor at George Washington University, said there’s growing evidence that many charities are “flagrantly violating” the expectation that they contribute to “the public good.” She said IRS regulators are not in a position to do anything about it. “They’ve been burned. They’ve been hammered. They’ve been bludgeoned,” said Galston, a specialist in state and federal nonprofit law. “They’re trying to survive.”
- The IRS Scandal, Day 1681: Robert Mueller And Lois Lerner (Dec. 15, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Day 1671: Lois Lerner’s Secrets (Dec. 5, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Day 1657: Lois Lerner Fears Retaliation If Her Tea Party Targeting Deposition Is Made Public (Nov. 21, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Day 1632: Department Of Justice Settles Tea Party Targeting Cases For Millions And An Apology (Oct. 27, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Day 1630: The Real Scandal Is The IRS's Budget (Oct. 25, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Day 1612: Inspector General Debunks Ideological Targeting Of Conservative Groups By The IRS (Oct. 7, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Day 1611: TIGTA Report, Review Of Selected Criteria Used To Identify Tax-Exempt Applications For Review (Oct. 6, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Day 1610: Inspector General Says IRS Gave Extra Scrutiny To Liberal Groups, Undermining GOP Claims Of Ideological Targeting Of Conservative Groups By IRS (Oct. 5, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Day 1672: Ohio Attorney General Asks Federal Court To Release Lois Lerner's Deposition In Tea Party Targeting Case (Dec. 6, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 1501-1600 (June 18, 2017 - Oct. 4, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 1401-1500 (Mar. 10, 2017 - June 17, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 1301-1400 (Nov. 30, 2016 - Mar. 9, 2017)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 1201-1300 (Aug. 22, 2016 - Nov. 29, 2016)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 1101-1200 (May 14, 2016 - Aug. 21, 2016)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 1001-1100 (Feb. 4, 2016 - May 13, 2016)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 901-1000 (Oct. 27, 2015 - Feb. 3, 2016)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 801-900 (July 19, 2015 - Oct. 26, 2015)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 701-800 (April 10, 2015 - July 18, 2015)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 601-700 (Dec. 31, 2014 - April 9, 2015)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 501-600 (Sept. 22, 2014-Dec. 30, 2014)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 401-500 (June 14, 2014 - Sept. 21,2014)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 301-400 (Mar. 6, 2014 - June 13, 2014)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 201-300 (Nov. 26, 2013 - Mar. 5, 2014)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 101-200 (Aug. 18, 2013 - Nov. 25, 2013)
- The IRS Scandal, Days 1-100 (May 10, 2013 - Aug. 17, 2013)