Lawrence O'Donnell joined former IRS official Marcus Owens and Democratic strategist Julian Epstein for some straight talk on IRS activity with regard to their examination of applications for tax-exempt status and whether what they did was improper. Here are some facts to go with the discussion:
- Over 80 percent of applications submitted for tax-exempt status were from conservative organizations.
- The only organization to have its tax-exempt status revoked was one run by Democratic women to try and encourage more women to run for office.
- There is no requirement that any 501(c)(4) organization apply for approval of their tax-exempt status. If they do not apply, there is a risk of audit and disqualification down the road, but they are not required to apply to be a 501(c)(4) entity.
- Despite Rush Limbaugh's exaggerated claims, there was no limitation imposed by the IRS on these groups' ability to influence the 2012 election.
- Many of the IRS requests for information came about because of activities observed by agents in real time.
I keep pounding away at these points because it's clear that conservatives are working overtime to gin up constituent anger over them in the hopes they can push a wave effect into 2014. Marco Rubio, for example, put up a video saying that the only solution to the IRS "scandal" is to repeal Obamacare, which is a reach back to the thoroughly debunked lie that 60,000 new IRS agents would be hired to audit your health care. That's an Alex Jones/Michele Bachmann classic, revived now to strike fear in the hearts of teabaggers everywhere. They've staged one "day of protest" already. Here's what it looked like in my home town:
Pretty pathetic, right? But give it time. In November, we had 5 protesters out whipping up hysteria over Benghazi. In recent days, I've seen some strange LaRouche/AFP hybrid group with Obama-as-Hitler images next to calls for impeachment signs in front of the Post Office. It's early yet, and if they think they can harness IRS hate and channel that into another big surge next year, they're going to keep trying.
Facts do matter in this case. Lois Lerner should have stepped down not because she oversaw the effort on the part of the IRS division in question, but because she handled it unprofessionally and allowed it to blow up in the Obama administration and IRS' face. Speaking of the administration, it would have been helpful for them to reserve judgement on this until actual facts emerged, since that will now be used to chill scrutiny of the huge money laundering operation taking place on the right in this country.
That's really the bottom line here. Billionaires used these organizations to hide their massive contributions to election-buying. The only difference between a PAC and a c4 organization as they were used is that the c4 didn't have to disclose donors, which served them quite well and sent many of us on a lot of treasure hunts to try and find out who was behind those ugly ads in many states. The IRS was right to question them and right to carve them out for higher scrutiny.