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Monday, September 26, 2016

by Richard Tofel, ProPublica

ProPublica’s job is to report the news rather than to make news ourselves, but sometimes we find an article of ours to be itself a subject of public debate. Last week was such a time, when two articles we had published back in December and January became the subject of significant attention in light of the uproar over IRS oversight of the process for granting tax exemption to so-called “social welfare” groups under section 501(c)(4). We triggered that attention with a third article we published on May 13, setting out everything we knew about the circumstances of our previous stories.

Largely ignored in a public outcry last week — radio rants, Twitter storms, congressional, presidential and prosecutorial posturing– were the following:

Our pieces in December and January raised very serious questions about whether six different “dark money” political groups seeking tax exemption had made false statements on their applications. Those applications are signed under penalty of perjury. If any false statements were made knowingly, the groups — including Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS — may have committed a crime. There is no indication, however, that either the IRS or the Department of Justice has done anything since January to investigate whether such crimes were indeed committed. The groups in question happen all to be conservative. Not one congressional Republican has, to my knowledge, expressed any concern about this possible criminality.

Even more remarkably, leading public figures have asserted as fact that they know how we came to receive nine documents in the mail — statements that appear to have little basis (and in some cases, no basis at all).

The former acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue said on May 17 that the agency’s inspector general had found that the disclosure to us was “inadvertent” — we had requested the applications, but they should not have been sent to us before they were approved. The IRS followed later the same day with a statement to the same effect — but then refused to answer questions about who had made the mistake, and why they should be believed when they denied having acted intentionally (and thus likely denied committing a crime).

What really seems to have happened at the IRS in Cincinnati, across the last three presidencies (a Democrat, then a Republican, then a Democrat), and across two turns of the partisan screw in the House of Representatives, from Republicans to Democrats to Republicans again, is that the agency has been starved of resources, and badly mismanaged.

But while it took the IRS four long days to tell people about their conclusion of “inadvertence” and the same four days for ProPublica to report out the dysfunction , people like Rush Limbaugh, and their followers and fellow travelers on Twitter and in the fringe press, rushed headlong to judgment. Here’s what Limbaugh said about the mid-level federal employees at the IRS in Cincinnati on Tuesday: “The people at these government agencies have been stocked with leftists for decades now, and they’re all activists.” What evidence did he offer for this? None. How could he know that someone in a large bureaucracy, shuffling thousands of pieces of paper, didn’t make a mistake? He couldn’t, and he didn’t.

  • Lisztman

    Yet another case of the right wing grasping, clutching, at any straw that represents the remotest possibility that their losses in last November’s elections could be reversed.

    I’m sure Bill Gates knows all the details of goings-on in the PowerPoint bullpen, right? Sam Walton knows about every Wal-Mart department manager who may have let slip a sexual slight, and fails to DO something about it…

    In ANY large corporation (and the U.S. Government is a “pretty large” outfit) there are managers who exhibit poor judgment; underlings who make mistakes; individuals with an “agenda”, and the like. That does not mean that that info gets to the top; indeed, it is the responsibility of the location management to identify and deal with such problems.

    If, indeed, a problem truly exists. From what has been revealed, it seems that certain applications for non-profit tax status contained keywords that smelled an awful lot like political action — which is specifically relegated to minority raison d’etre under the tax code. Maybe, just maybe, some of these groups should figure out first if they’re filing for non-profit status within the limits of the code, rather than complaining that their keywords triggered a bit of further investigation.

  • I really feel that the worse thing President Obama could do is to try to appear considerate to Republicunt/neo-Confederate Tea Bags, and the worse thing the IRS could have done was to apologize to them. President Obama should know that after five years of relentless, ruthless bashing and obstructionism of his presidency by Republicunt/neo-Confederate Tea Bags, they would not view his anger at the IRS as something righteous. They see it as his sychophancy to them. Since the IRS has apologized and served up the resignation of the agent in charge, they are hammering at it moreso now than they did when it arose. Republicunt/neo-Confederate Tea Bags are a bunch of lousy, low lifed traitors who would take any opportunity or advantage to push their hate/fear agenda. Their white supremacist hubris and their wallowing in that social welfare system like the very welfare queens they made up had caused the scrutiny of the IRS, and it was deserved. Republicunt/neo-Confederate Tea Bags are terrorists, thugs, bullies who would take kindness for weakness and considerartion as an opportunity to sock you when you lower your guards.

    • I totally agree!! NO apologies!! Stand up to these thugs! I am sick and tired of them always calling wolf and everyone listening like they are the word of GOD!! Ignore them! Don’t give them any media time with their crazy rants! Get on with business!!

      • angelsinca

        According to the article, Limbaugh started the fire and then torches were dipped in fuel by everyone within shouting distance of the legislative and executive branches to light up the show. Everyone, republicans and democrats. Good article.

        btw Robert, the continued use of “Republicunt” is especially offensive to anyone with a mother, daughter, sister or wife. Your credibility suffers from its use. Too bad, since you usually have a good point to offer.

        • Sorry. I call it like it smells. They’re dead fish.

          • angelsinca

            Especially offensive.

      • 😉

  • Well, if an organization filed under 501(c)4, and decided to call themselves “Progressives For A Stronger Democratic Party”.

    Then stated that their cause was actually designed to provide “Social Welfare for Uninsured, Fatherless Families”, should they be investigated?

    • Landsende

      All tax exempt organizations, including churches, should be audited every few years in order to keep them honest. Too many of these organizations are just fronts for political purposes. Unfortunately, because of the so called scandal the IRS will be hesitant to take a closer look at these organizations and they will continue to break the law.

  • The BS factor is a solid 8 on the 1 to 10 scale. Taking nothing and making a scandal of it is really a hell of a task.