Is the IRS Using Your Tax Dollars to Harass Conservative Political Organizations?

Numerous news outlets reported recently that conservative coalitions and organizations from Hawaii to Virginia, including Tea Party groups, the Ohio Liberty Council, the Kentucky 9/12 project, and many others that applied to the IRS over the last two plus years for tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4), have received IRS information requests that are unusual in the breadth and depth of information the powerful federal tax collectors demand to see.

Of course the IRS is tasked under federal law to determine if groups applying for Section 501 tax exemption meet the criteria the law provides. But the combination of (1) the quantity and the particular kinds of information the IRS has demanded, and (2) the fact that the IRS’ information-request avalanche followed a request sent by letter from Senators Shaheen, Whitehouse, Schumer, Franken, Udall, Bennet and Merkley to the IRS, raises serious questions about the real motive for the powerful federal agency’s actions.

These seven Democrat Senators urged IRS investigation into whether 501(c)(4) applicants are engaging in substantial campaign activity including opposition to any candidate. The IRS apparently read between the Democrat lines and launched the harassment-level investigations only of right-leaning organizations, unless MoveOn.org and other left-leaning organizations have received similar requests from Obama’s IRS, and are submissively complying without public complaint.

Stories abound in the media about the IRS’ treatment of Tea Party groups. You can read about them here, here and here. But the IRS has extended its aggressive information demand campaign to other conservative organizations as well.

A well-known leader in North Texas founded two related organizations in 2010, both with the purpose of educating a minority group on conservative issues and values through research and presentation of those values in media, and through public speaking at conferences and events. One was founded as a 501(c)(4), and received its tax-exempt status within a year. The other, which is mainly educational in purpose, was founded as a 501(c)(3) organization. A decision on the tax-exempt application for the 501(c)(3) was anticipated within approximately six months, but nearly two years have passed since filing the application, without resolution. The founder and the organization’s attorney contacted the IRS several times throughout this period to check on the status of the application and ask if other information was needed. After 22 months passed without communication back from the IRS, in January of 2012 the IRS issued a voluminous request for information.

When the founder complied with the first request, the IRS’ answer was to launch a supplemental information demand that included requests for the time, location and content schedule for every event, copies of all handouts at the events, detailed contents of the speeches or forums, and a host of other information requests that are onerous, and have a chilling effect on the activities of the founder and on citizens who participate in these events. (This founder prefers anonymity in this article to avoid potential ongoing IRS “uncooperativeness”.) While this particular scenario played out before the Democrat Senators’ goading letter to the IRS, the conduct and attitude of the IRS toward this group parallels their attitude toward the Tea Party.

Curiously, the IRS website says they are currently processing applications for 501(c)(3) status made in July 2011. This North Texas founder, as well as many of the Tea Party applicants for tax-exempt status, made their requests long before that July 2011 timeframe, and only in recent months has received the agency’s reply in the form of intrusive and chilling information requests. One example is the Richmond Tea Party, that applied for 501(c)(4) status in December of 2009, and as of January 2012 was still dealing with follow-up demands from the IRS for more information, including one 53 part inquiry that asked for names and amounts of every contributor, and copies of web pages accessible only to its members.

As a former litigator, I know the “bury them in paperwork” tactic that leaves smaller law firms at a disadvantage responding to document and information requests. Compliance is time-consuming and renders the recipient unable to proactively pursue his case because he is too busy assembling and copying documents, and collecting information to provide accurate and thorough answers.

But if the IRS information requests are as egregious as they appear, the impact is more than just a time and resource drain for conservative activists. It is no secret that conservative organizations do not support the fiscal and other policies of the current President and his fellow Democrats. By asking for donor information, and content of speeches and flyers and handouts, the IRS is letting Americans know that discussion critical of the administration will not go unnoticed by the federal government. Every American, regardless of political persuasion, should oppose this exertion of government power.

Issues: 

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To enjoy the freedom the 1st Amendment intended non-profits should incorporate as corporate media companies.

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For example:

 

CNSNews.com is a division of the Media Research Center, a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. Like National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, CNSNews.com is able to provide its services and information to the public at no cost, thanks to the generous support of our thousands of donors and their tax-deductible contributions. However, unlike NPR or PBS, CNSNews.com does not accept any federal tax money for its operations. - http://cnsnews.com/about-us

 

From 1791 to 1886 1st Amendment freedoms applied only to citizens.

 

From 1886 to 1973 citizens and media corporations enjoyed equal freedoms.

 

In 1974 Congress set limits on contributions by individuals, political parties and PACs.

 

But they exempted the corporate media and created the State approved press:

2 USC 431 (9) (B) (i) The term "expenditure" does not include any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, unless such facilities are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate;

 

"The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy." -Alex Carey, Australian social scientist who pioneered the investigation of corporate propaganda (see Taking the Risk Out Of Democracy, Univ of New South Wales, 1995)

 

A newspaper must at all times antagonize the selfish interests of that very class which furnishes the larger part of a newspaper's income... The press in this country is dominated by the wealthy few...that it cannot be depended upon to give the great mass of the people that correct information concerning political, economical and social subjects which it is necessary that the mass of people Shall have in order that they vote...in the best way to protect themselves from the brutal force and chicanery of the ruling and employing classes. (E.W. Scripps).

 

It is normal for all large businesses to make serious efforts to influence the news, to avoid embarrassing publicity, and to maximize sympathetic public opinion and government policies. Now they own most of the news media that they wish to influence. - Excerpt from The Media Monopoly by Ben H. Bagdikian

 

"Section 431(9)(B)(i) makes a distinction where there is no real difference: the media is extremely powerful by any measure, a "special interest" by any definition, and heavily engaged in the "issue advocacy" and "independent expenditure" realms of political persuasion that most editorial boards find so objectionable when anyone other than a media outlet engages in it. To illustrate the absurdity of this special exemption the media enjoys, I frequently cite as an example the fact that if the RNC bought NBC from GE the FEC would regulate the evening news and, under the McCain-Feingold "reform" bill, Tom Brokaw could not mention a candidate 60 days before an election. This is patently absurd." – Senator McConnell

 

The press exemption is a restriction on participation by 99.9999% of the population and grants .0001% of the population immunity from campaign laws. I challenge the broadcast talking heads and print journalists to explain why their audiences should not enjoy the same exemption?

 

The NRA bought a radio station. But should citizens have to buy a radio station to speak or a newspaper to print their views? To restore equal protection under law the press exemption must be extended to citizens and groups!

 

Every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add... artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society the farmers, mechanics, and laborers who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government. President Andrew Jackson.

 

Lovell v. City of Griffin SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES 303 U.S. 444 Argued February 4, 1938 Decided March 28, 1938

 

      The liberty of the press is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. These indeed have been historic weapons in the defense of liberty, as the pamphlets of Thomas Paine and others in our own history abundantly attest. The press in its historic connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion. What we have had recent occasion to say with respect to the vital importance of protecting this essential liberty from every sort of infringement need not be repeated. Near v. Minnesota, supra; Grosjean v. American Press Co., supra; De Jonge v. Oregon, supra.[note 2]

 

      Whatever differences may exist about interpretations of the First Amendment, there is practically universal agreement that a major purpose of that Amendment was to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs. This of course includes discussions of candidates, structures and forms of government, the manner in which government is operated or should be operated, and all such [384 U.S. 214, 219] matters relating to political processes. The Constitution specifically selected the press, which includes not only newspapers, books, and magazines, but also humble leaflets and circulars, see Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 , to play an important role in the discussion of public affairs.

 

Campaign laws magnify the voice of corporations and muzzle the masses. America has fallen to 47th in press freedom worldwide.

 

At the time our United States Constitution was written "freedom of the press" was understood to be every "natural persons" Right to use or hire the use of a "printing press"!

The attempt to use the IRS to intimidate and restrict our freedom to communicate our political opinions should be met with a campaign to regain our "inaleinable" speech and press Rights!

Flesh and blood "natural persons" should insist that congress restore their enumerated speech and press rights!

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Did the "first amendment" deny congress the authority to create a "state approved press" in these United States?

Yes!

Does the "press exemption" 2 USC 431 (9) (B) (i) create a "state approved press" in these United States?

Yes!

2 USC 431 (9) (B) (i) The term "expenditure" does not include any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, unless such facilities are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate. 

By definition any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication that is "exempted" from campaign finance laws that restrict the "speech and press rights" of every "natural person" is defacto a "state approved press"!

Do "campaign finance laws" place any limits on how much stockholder money is raised or spent by any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication communicating their political ideas and opinions?

No!

Does the first amendment enumerate "press rights" for "natural persons"?

Yes!

Are Newspaper businesses, broadcast stations and political action committees "legal persons"!

Yes!

Does the first amendment require a "natural person" to become a "legal person" a "political action committee" in order  to exercise enumerated "press rights"?

No!

Do "camapign finance laws" require "natural persons" to form "political action committees" if they "pool money" to pay the cost of communicating  their political ideas and opinions!

Yes!

Should "natural persons" have as much freedom to speak and publish their political opinions as "legal persons" any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication who are allowed to pool and spend an unlimited amount of stockholder money distributing their political endorsements ideas  and opinions?

Yes!

My solution restore the speech and press rights of "natural persons":

Insist that conservative members of congress sponsor legislaltion that will Amend 2 USC 431 (9) (B) (i) to include every "living U.S. citizen" or "group of living U.S citizens" that pool and spend money communicating their political ideas endorsements and opinions in this so called "press exemption"!

 

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