Missing from much coverage is the relevant recent history—the role of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision and how it prompted a deluge of requests from new organizations seeking tax-exempt status under tax code Section 501(c)(4) as “social welfare” organizations—despite the fact that many of these are blatantly political operations.
Congress requires the IRS to review every application for tax-exempt status to weed out organizations that are partisan, political, or that generate private gain. Congress has imposed this requirement on the IRS, and its predecessor agencies, since 1913.
When it comes to 501(c)(4) organizations, what the IRS is supposed to do is draw a distinction between groups that are “primarily engaged” in politics and groups that really are primarily engaged in “social welfare”—somehow “promoting the common good and social welfare of the community.” It’s kind of mushy. Brad Plumer has a good explainer about this on The Washington Post’s Wonkblog.
The first scandal here, meanwhile, is that the social welfare tax exemption is being used by existing 501(c)(4) organizations, including some very large ones, to promote partisan political interests—the very activity Congress has explicitly prohibited for a century. The New York Times, after a weak political piece on Saturday, had a clear and useful explainer about this on Tuesday.
Also worth pointing out: None of the organizations that the IRS scrutinized as a result of the ill-considered screening-by-name regime was denied tax exempt status.
The second—and widely ignored—scandal in this unfolding story is that the IRS is drowning. Congress is demanding that the agency do more and more with less and less, as we have reported here and elsewhere. As David Levinthal reported Tuesday at the Center for Public Integrity:
The IRS’ Exempt Organizations Division, which finds itself at the scandal’s epicenter, processed significantly more tax exemption applications in fiscal year 2012 by so-called 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations — 2,774 — than it has since at least the late 1990s.
That compares to 1,777 applications in 2011 and 1,741 in 2010, he reported.
Meanwhile, in real terms the IRS budget has been cut 17 percent per capita since 2002, even as Congress has piled on other new duties, such as hunting for offshore accounts, dealing with the complexities of the Affordable Care Act, and other expanded obligations.
17 year Cicada emergence .gif, because I had to see it animate.
Alex Cox’s 1986 biopic on the elder punk and his tumultuous relationship with Nancy Spungeon offers a great showcase of Gary Oldman’s acting talents and a larger than life look at a couple of people who were already striving to be larger than life. I could have done with a few fewer layers, personally. But let’s save that for this week’s episode.
Anonymous asked: Wow, is that picture really you? You look like a bigger cunt then I thought.
That was a picture of Michael J. Fox on the cover of AARP magazine.
Documentation of physical injuries can be critical for victims of sexual assault. The School of Nursing’s Kathryn Laughon, RN, and collaborators are raising $19,000 to identify a new forensic dye that will help medical professionals visualize injuries more effectively on women of all skin tones.
But some in the Muslim community might have a question – why are conservatives so surprised (and outraged) by this news when Muslim nonprofits and their leaders have been under intense scrutiny for over a decade? And when so many Muslim groups and individuals have faced scrutiny simply for the religion they follow?