Thursday, February 29, 2024

Oversight Committee Wants IRS to Explain Lax Enforcement of Political Activity Restrictions

Fact check: Republicans make false, misleading claims at first Biden  impeachment inquiry hearing | CNN Politics

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, pictured above, has taken a break from watching Hunter Biden porn videos to address the IRS's alleged failure to investigate liberal organizations engaging in too much political activity.  He's even pulled out his trusty Lois Lerner faux indignation multiplex demodulator weapon.  From an article in the National Review:

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R., Ky.) is opening an investigation into how the IRS is enforcing its lobbying restrictions on tax-exempt organizations.  Comer wrote a letter to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel Wednesday and suggested the agency is withholding enforcement efforts against lobbying by 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations designed for charitable purposes.  . .  .  “Despite these limitations on political and lobbying activities by 501(c)(3) designated entities, activist advocacy organizations, such as One Fair Wage, Inc., seem to view their charitable work as indistinguishable from their substantial lobbying pursuits,” he added. 

Comer uses left-wing activist group One Fair Wage as an example of the blurry distinctions between nonprofit charities and political lobbying organizations. . . The IRS previously targeted conservative groups by selectively scrutinizing the organizations and delaying requests for tax-exempt status. Former director of the IRS exempt organizations division Lois Lerner and her colleagues orchestrated the IRS scandal perpetrated against Tea Party groups. The Justice Department settled with dozens of conservative groups in 2017 and the IRS admitted wrongdoing.

I try to exhibit neutrality on this blog, I swear I do.  But these voyeurs kill me.  First they withhold funding and even legislate against IRS efforts to define "substantial lobbying" and then they complain when nothing gets done.  Border security much?  So after doing their best to claw back IRS funding, in addition to the appropriations rider prohibiting political activity rule-making and enforcement, these legislators -- with straight faces, even -- send out indignant letters demanding to know why nothing is getting done.  No kidding.  Here is a bit from Comer's letter:

Reports by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) note specific problems with the IRS’s capabilities to enforce regulations for charities and other tax-exempt organizations, including: a lack of responsiveness by the IRS to tax-exempt organizations and internal IRS resource allocation plans covering tax-exempt enforcement. A Committee investigation previously found that the IRS systematically targeted perceived conservative tax-exempt applicants for additional scrutiny instead of neutrally enforcing regulations for tax-exempt charities and organizations. We are concerned that IRS may now be engaged in withholding legitimate enforcement efforts as they pertain to activist groups hiding behind their non-profit statuses.

I expect nothing much will come from any of this, except Comer will still get paid.  It all reminds me of the line from the hit song by Dire Straits:  "That ain't working.  That's the way you do it.  Money for nothing and your chicks for free."  
darryll k. jones

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I think your comment conflates political activity and lobbying. Comer seems here to be focused on legislative lobbying by 501(c)(3) in excess of the 501(c)(3)-permissible limits. The appropriations rider forbids IRS efforts to clarify permissible 501(c)(4) political -- i.e., efforts to influence elections for public office -- activity.

Don't get me wrong. I don't like Comer's fulminating against 501(c)(3) lobbying, and I do think that Congress should the IRS and Treasury do the work of clarifying and enforcing the restrictions on tax-exempt organizations' election-related activity, but let's not confuse the two.

Posted by: John Pomeranz | Feb 29, 2024 1:59:15 PM

Point taken, John, there is some conflating going on. But Comer's letter refers to both "substantial political campaigning and lobbying" (as though insubstantial campaigning is ok). Twice in the first paragraph.

Posted by: Darryll Jones | Mar 1, 2024 5:26:58 AM

Perhaps Chairman Comer didn't get the memo regarding repeal of the Johnson amendment. Free speech for churches (and other charities) unless it is lobbying/campaign activity in favor of an issue/candidate he/they don't support

Posted by: Steven Woolf | Mar 1, 2024 7:56:22 AM

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