“Social Welfare” non-profits, or 501(c)(4)s, have existed for nearly a century but in the last decade they’ve rapidly transformed America’s political landscape, empowering shadowy tax-exempt organizations to shape elections without ever naming their donors. These groups must be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare” but that definition is hazy at best, which means they can spend millions to advocate for or against issues and candidates.
Bureaucrats at the IRS recently apologized for targeting groups with “Tea Party” and “Patriot” in the title that were applying for 501(c)(4) status. For some strange reason, the IRS had a suspicion these groups might have a partisan agenda. An IRS Inspector General’s report expected soon will likely add fuel to the fuming anger coming from Republican politicians about what they call an egregious abuse of power.
The New Republic‘s Alec MacGillis explains that the real scandal is how the IRS wasted its precious resources on these groups:
At the same time it was sending long questionnaires to groups like a Tea Party outfit in Waco, the IRS was doing precious little to rein in the groups that were making a true mockery of the law on 501(c)(4)s—outfits like Crossroads GPS, the organization co-founded by Karl Rove that spent $71 million last year. This spending was undeniably geared toward influencing the 2012 election but, unlike regular SuperPACs such as its sister group American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS was not required to disclose the source of the funds. All told, the 501(c)(4)s spent $254 million in last year’s election, nearly three times what they spent in 2010. And yes, most of this spending was on behalf of the Republican side.
Here are five right-wing “social welfare” non-profits that are obviously only interested in social welfare.
Photo: artbyheather via Flickr.com
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