The New JournoList spin on the IRS

That’s funny. Two different articles, one in Mother Jones, one in the WaPo, yet they’re running the exact same explanation as to why the IRS targeted conservative groups filing for tax exemptions.

From Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog:

The context for all this is that after Citizens United and some related decisions, the number of groups registering as 501(c)4s doubled. Because the timing of that doubling coincided with a rise in political activism on the right rather than the left, a lot of the politicized groups attempting to register as 501(c)4s were describing their purpose in tea party terms. A popular conceit, for instance, was that they existed to educate on the Constitution — even if the particular pedagogical method meant participating in Republican Party primaries and pressuring incumbent politicians.

From Kevin Drum in Mother Jones:

The problem is that the explosion of 501(c)4 groups is a genuine problem: they really have grown like kudzu, lots of them really are used primarily as electioneering vehicles, and the IRS has been either unwilling or unable to regulate them properly. So the fact that some of the folks responsible for processing these applications were looking for a way to flag potentially dubious groups is sort of understandable.

So that’s the New JournoList party line, is it? It’s an “understandable” error due to the rise in the number of groups registering for tax-exempt status.

Note also how both of them nod their heads and agree that the IRS screwed up. They “bungled it horribly” (Drum) and they “were attempting to create a usable shortcut” (Klein). Justify, justify, justify. This one must have a multi-tiered thread in the New Journolist listserv. Guaranteed this is just the first of many explanations that will be thrown against the wall to see which one sticks. And it will be aided and abetted by the mainstream media, because the New JournoList is the mainstream media.

I found two. How many more New JournoList IRS apologists can you find?

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21 Responses to The New JournoList spin on the IRS

  1. Joe Blow says:

    This ignores what was going on in the world of non-profits circa 2006-2008. The collapse of Jack Abramoff’s money laundering Washington Sports Foundation caused the IRS to start looking more deeply into the nature of 501(c)(3) corporations, including performing a lot of audits of 501(c)(3) corps to see if they really were charitable organizations. I dealt with a number of sports clubs in this period – soccer teams, kayaking clubs, bike racing clubs, mountain climbing clubs – things which never should have been classed as 501(c)(3) corps, but as 501(c)(7) corps – clubs operated for a “non-profit” purpose but toward the sporting or social benefit of members. A 501(c)(3) about kayaking, for instance, would have to primarily be about providing kayaking opportunities *for others*, such as under-privileged kids. A 501(c)(7) about kayaking, on the other hand, would be about grown up kayakers getting together and pooling resources for gear purchases and cool whitewater or coastal trips. Some types of grass roots political organizations can also form as 501(c)(4) corps – they tend to be “common welfare” sorts of groups, such as a police benevolent association, or a civic league, things of that nature.

    I assisted two sporting 501(c)(3) organizations and an unincorporated association reform as 501(c)(7) non-profits during this period, and have watched as a couple (c)(3) corporations in my town (a garden club and a general civic welfare sort of club) ran into tax problems due to their mis-classification as (c)(3) corporations.

    Any discussion of non-(c)(3) corporations and what the IRS was up to in this time period has to be informed by the way that IRS changed its enforcement standards. This wasn’t about an “explosion” of 501(c)(4) entities; it was about a change in the way IRS interpretedx and enforced the rules around (c)(3) incorporation, from a loose non-profit catch-all, into a classification that is much more strictly construed.

    I suppose that since the liberals find it trouble how 501(c)(4) groups have “exploded like Kudzu,” that they’d support much stricter enforcement of the law against ostensibly non-profit subchapter (c) corporations like OFA, Media Matters and the like…

  2. amk101 says:

    I believe Nancy Pelosi’s complaint about the citizen’s united court case is in the same vein.

  3. Dano says:

    I don’t know what you could call it but I find it funny that anyone from Mother Jones is saying anything negative about 501(c)(4) corporations since it is a 501(c)(3) corporation and any donation given to a 501(c)(3) is tax deductible.

  4. Bobo from Texas says:

    The real explanation is much simpler.

    The mere fact that you may be against Hope&Change! indicates the need for a full investigation.

    And there are many, many “progressives” that heartily agree.


  5. jennyhatch says:

    I just taped a VIDEO RESPONSE to the IRS: ***Please note, the Tea Party I organized was in 2009!***

    Jenny Hatch 
    Colorado Tea Party Organizer

  6. Ed Bosco says:

    I recall at the time – this is about 2010 / 2011 – a few very well organized Tea Party groups in Ohio – getting the most intrusive questions.

    These were questions and requests for membership lists and addresses / contact info, detailed questions on political beliefs, detailed questions on funding. I was taken aback – the IRS wanted both officers and members’ info.

    One of the groups had spent 5 or 6 thousand on legal fees to address it, and great delays in attempting to get resolution.

    This is all from memory, from reading those emails from several years back. I believe those questions chilled and slowed the growth and wasted the energy of those organizations. That area might be a good place to dig.

    The groups were non-partisan, good-government groups.

  7. Blue says:

    Also Yglesias and Weigel at Slate, exact same day.

  8. Willy says:

    I’ve been sitting on the sidelines watching the Tea Party, sympathizing with their message, but never joining. I suspect there are others like me. It’s time I at least donate to their cause, if not join it directly. Even if we don’t always agree with them, we have to offset the damage done to them by the media and now the IRS.

  9. Diogenes says:

    Just heard the same line on NPR.

  10. Yes, the old JournoList members are all falling in line with the spin today. But let’s face it, we always knew they’d never stopped doing it. They just got better at hiding their listserv.

  11. rastajenk says:

    And let’s not forget to raise a toast to Joe the Plumber, the canary in this coalmine who first dared to question The One.

  12. BobB59 says:

    Coordinated responses are not surprising in the age of twitter. People read and share what they believe. It doesn’t take long for thought to self sort.

  13. Ameryx says:

    Brian Lehrer, WNYC (pubic radio), on his talk show this morning, floated this same justification, with the risible addition that the IRS was trying to protect conservatives from being ripped off.
    Oh! Add in Ben Smith from Buzzfeed, who served as a Greek chorus for the justification.

  14. submandave says:

    This excuse is so ridiculously easy to rebut. If the intrusive questions were designed to catch political organizations posing as non-profits (a claim, incidentally, that was not made by the IRS), then it should be easy to provide examples of such organizations caught by these rules. I shan’t stay up too late waiting for an anwser.

  15. Adam B. says:

    There is no conspiracy; it comes directly from Lois Lerner’s own remarks which sparked the controversy:

    “We get about 60,000 applications for tax exemption every year, most of them are 501(c)(3) organizations. But between 2010 and 2012 we started seeing a very big uptick in the number of 501(c)(4) applications we were receiving and many of these organizations applying more than doubled, about 1500 in 2010 and over 3400 in 2012. So we saw a big increase in these kind of applications, many of which indicated that they were going to be involved in advocacy work.”

  16. So basically, Adam, you didn’t read the post where we pointed out that the New JournoList talking points are exactly what you’re quoting? Nice try, but we’re onto that flimsy excuse.

  17. Angela says:

    Conservatives targeted by IRS.
    Pro-Israeli group targeted by IRS.
    Romney donor targeted by IRS.
    Reid with “anonymously” provided Romney tax info.
    Libs leaking confidential Koch tax info.
    ProPublica confesses to IRS leaking confidential info to them.

    But rest assured, politics are not a factor…pfft.

  18. Angela says:

    Almost forgot to mention Obama’s brother’s charity speedily approved for exemption by none other than “not-so-good-at-math” Lerner.

  19. Adam B. says:

    I read the post. Quoting from the IRS official’s explanation of what happens does not require any coordination at all, and is not suspicious at all.

  20. Angela says:

    Adam, I think the point is that the IRS targeted conservative policy positions and conservative names. It really doesn’t matter if the workload doubled or tripled or stayed the same. The criteria they used to target applications was politically biased. They can claim it was unintentional all they want, but that doesn’t change the result. Conservatives were targeted because of politically biased criteria created and used by the IRS.
    Liberal policy positions and names were not targeted – just conservative. <<biased

    Maybe the FBI will be able to uncover what motivation led to these biased actions.

Comments are closed.