Instead of celebrating Darrell Issa’s courageous attempts to protect the anonymity of individuals exercising their first amendment right to donate money to political campaigns without having to reveal who they are, we get outrage on the left. Debra J. Saunders cogently expresses the conservative concern that the Obama administration is trying to deep six the investigation into how the IRS targeted conservative groups when deciding whether they qualified for Section 501(c)(4) status. 501(c)(4) status is given to organizations whose purpose is social welfare; however IRS regulations allow a limited amount of lobbying and political campaign activity.
The incident which set off the left-wing hissy fit is Issa’s instructions to turn off the microphone of ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (Issa’s gesture was a finger dragged quickly across his throat) as he was trying to make a statement. Ultimately Cummings’ microphone was restored to operation, at which point his “procedural” question, as Saunders so aptly describes, became a diatribe against Issa’s noble attempt to investigate IRS targeting of conservatives.
Lois Lerner was director of IRS Exempt Organizations tasked with ensuring that groups applying for 501(c)(4) status were primarily engaged in social welfare. Such groups include American Crossroads Grassroots Policy, founded by Karl Rove as an offshoot of his American Crossroads Super PAC, allowing it to collect funds from anonymous donors, a small portion ($70 million) of which it legally spent in support of Republican candidates in the 2012 race. Another group is Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Koch brothers, which spent a reasonable $122 million in the 2012 election cycle supporting such protected social welfare issues as denying that climate change is real and man-made, and arguments against the ACA and Obamacare, and for Republican candidates in House elections.
That left-wingers would have the slightest concern that such organizations might not legitimately claim 501(c)(4) status is remarkable. That they would assume that an organization with “Tea Party” in its name might in fact be militating for political change rather than social welfare change and sic the IRS on the organization simply for that reason is unconscionable.
Lois Lerner defends herself and her department as having been overwhelmed by what Saunders accurately labels an uptick in applications (which merely doubled while the department responsible for making decisions saw budget and personnel cuts) for 501(c)(4) status due to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which colloquially established that corporations are people. That under such circumstances the department would no longer be able to thoroughly check all groups applying for status and would instead design measures to sample groups, choosing words in their names like “tea party” and “progressive” to pick which groups might be more politically-oriented than socially-engaged, demonstrates laziness and gross incompetence.
While Lois Lerner is unforgivably invoking her 5th amendment rights against self-incrimination (she must be guilty of some transgress), the Obama IRS is stonewalling the investigation. While it is true that the FBI has completed its investigation and not found sufficient evidence of political bias to warrant political charges, it is also true that the IRS has only turned over to Darrell Issa’s committee 400,000 documents, and the investigation has cost a piddling $14-16 million. As Debra J. Saunders so compelling concludes, we need to continue investigating until we get to the bottom of the issue and determine conclusively that the Obama administration deliberately and illegally used the IRS to target conservative groups such as Karl Rove’s and the Koch brothers’ raising money intended primarily for social welfare activities.