We’ve heard a lot in recent weeks about the IRS unfairly targeting Tea Party groups that applied for tax exempt status as “social welfare” organizations. Republicans maintain that the targeting was part of a conspiracy about the Obama administration to attack conservatives. Did the IRS target Tea Party groups? Yes. If so, was this targeting wrong? No. Here are the facts:
According to the law:
To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare…
The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. However, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.
In other words, Tea Party groups would NOT be entitled to tax exempt status if their primary purpose was to engage in political activity. The problem for Tea Party groups is that they were formed for the explicit purpose of engaging in political activity. Consider the following two facts reported by Fire Dog Lake:
First is the fact that the tea party is a creation of enterprising political and public relations professionals, constructed to accomplish a political purpose. A study published in the Tobacco Control Journal actually traced the origins of the tea party to “free-market” groups founded by tobacco corporations and the oil industry billionaires David and Charles Koch.
According to researchers at UC San Francisco:
“Rather than being a grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party organizations have had connections to the tobacco companies since the 1980s. The cigarette companies funded and worked through Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of Tea Party organizations...
Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), was founded in 1984 by the Koch brothers.
There is even a tea party website registered to a Koch group in 2005, long before the conservative outcry we now know as the tea party began.
The second thing to keep in mind is that the tea party is still controlled by enterprising political and public relations professionals, funded by the David and Charles Koch. In coverage of the IRS scandal, there were 11 people who were involved in tea party groups quoted about IRS scrutiny. Of those 11, 10 have substantial ties to Americans for Prosperity (AFP) ...
The tea party groups that were scrutinized by the IRS are not just separate grassroots citizen groups unfairly accused of political shenanigans, as the Koch associated spokespeople in the media would have you believe. They are one part of a wider political strategy, funded and managed by a very wealthy few.
Bottom Line: The Tea Party groups were organized for the primary purpose of engaging in political activity to support the Republican Party and the interests of a small number of wealthy individuals and large corporations. They did not, and never have, met the requirements under the law to receive tax exempt status as “social welfare” organizations. The IRS had every right, in fact was required by law, to question the eligibility of Tea Party groups for tax exempt status. The only thing the IRS conspired to do was enforce the law.