In our opinion: Obama administration IRS rules to politicize non-profit world


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  • Mike in Cedar City Cedar City, Utah
    March 28, 2014 11:16 a.m.

    The original intent of the 401(C) 4 law as written was to preclude any organization seeking tax exempt status under that statute from engaging in partisan political activity. The law reads that such organizations must conform to a public service or charitable role "exclusively". In 1958 the IRS, during a Republican administration, wrote a regulation that essentially changed the plain meaning of the law from "exclusive" to "primarily". I doubt that many of these funding organizations seeking tax protection under 401(C) 4 ever do any substantive public service or charitable work at all.

  • essence Ivins, UT
    March 26, 2014 7:48 a.m.

    People should read the actual report on these activities rather than relying on what they read and hear elsewhere. Having read it, it's clear that both conservative and liberal groups were reviewed by the IRS, applications were completed improperly so needed to be questioned, titles gave the IRS, an agency that has had its budget cut and had received at least a thousand more applications, a way of "high grading" the applications to help with processing. At least, that's my take on what I read. Perhaps conservative groups were reviewed more because more applied. 501(c)4 organizations seem, to me, to fall into a very "gray" definition and if I were starting one would be very concerned about where that might lead. Remember, several years ago, it was liberal churches that were being scrutinized for their political messaging.

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    March 20, 2014 8:13 a.m.

    The Tea Party and other Right Wing groups are certainly NOT “primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.”

    They are doing just the opposite.

    And how is it wrong for the IRS to enforce tax laws?

    Look . . . The tea (Taxed Enough Already) Party proudly and loudly proclaims its opposition to paying taxes.

    Therefore, TEA Party members are more likely to cheat on their taxes.

    Therefore, it makes sense for the IRS to scrutinize Tea Party organizations and similar reactionary Right Wing Groups that are likely to cheat on their taxes.

    Make sense?

  • cavetroll SANDY, UT
    March 18, 2014 1:05 p.m.


    #1: Why do Democrats defend corruption?
    Are you saying Republicans don't also defend corruption? That's a gas. Have you not paid attention to the John Swallow affair? Corruption knows no political boundaries.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    March 17, 2014 6:43 p.m.

    The Treasury Dept, not the Fed, writes/issues the regulations for the tax code.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    March 17, 2014 5:43 p.m.

    Conservative Republican hucksters often say that when the government takes money from one person to give to another, that doing so is a crime and that the people of government are criminals. While they only use this as part of their package of lies to thwart the civilization of human kind, the never seem to mention the greatest part of the crime being the tax deduction for charity.

    While it may be beneficial to society to promote religion and religious actions, the business of tax deductable has gotten far out of hand when political groups with the avowed intent to bring down our government ask for the government itself to force the whole American society to finance their cause.

  • Fitz Murray, UT
    March 17, 2014 1:48 p.m.

    "Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States", says with regards to taxation as a regulation power: "The power to lay taxes is a power exclusively given to raise revenue, and it can constitutionally be applied to no other purposes. The application for other purposes is an abuse of the power; and, in fact, however it may be in form disguised, it is a premeditated usurpation of authority.(Section 481)" And it also says: "The instrument (constitution) was not intended to provide merely for the exigencies for a few years; but was to endure through a long lapse of ages, the events of which were locked up in the inscrutable purposes of Providence.(Sec 190)"

    The government is not supposed to be regulating speech or any other policy of the federal government, through taxation. Yet this is exactly what they do on every policy. The whole concept of the IRS regulating speech, requiring the source of funding for entities that speak against government policies, or any other use of the IRS to establish a government policy is unconstitutional. It is unfortunate that those in power that are supposed to uphold our Constitution are, in fact, chipping away at its intent.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    March 17, 2014 1:47 p.m.

    "Many now defending the president would be justifiably outraged if the Bush administration had engaged in such behavior."

    When I read this I immediately thought of Bush AG Alberto Gonzales, Monica Goodling, etc., and their sterling contribution to politicizing the Justice Department. Those were some creepy, dark days...

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    March 17, 2014 1:33 p.m.

    E Sam,

    If you actually believe that the "Barak H. Obama Foundation" is helping the poor worldwide, I know of a bridge in Chappaquiddick that is for sale.

    Malik Obama is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, in fact, he is a fund raiser for that group. There are easily found photos of him wearing a scarf that says: “Jerusalem is ours – We are coming!” It is reported that "An IRS determination letter dated June 11, 2011, granted a highly irregular, retroactive tax-exempt status only after the group came under fire for having operated as a 501(c)3 foundation since 2008 without applying to the IRS." (Jerome R. Corsi)

    Malik and the President are very close. Malik was the Best Man at the President's wedding.

    Given the fact that the "Foundation" was incorporated on a Sunday, which can't happen and the fact that the IRS illegally granted it non-profit status and allowed that designation to be retroactive for over two years, nothing that the IRS says about non-profits corporations should be taken seriously.

  • factsplease SLO, CA
    March 17, 2014 1:14 p.m.

    While 501c4 applications have doubled since Citizens United, the IRS budget decreased by $1 billion dollars over the past 4 yrs.

    Tax fraud has increased. Responsiveness to taxpayer's questions have decreased.

    Republicans asked for additional budget cuts amounting to $3 billion dollars.

    The IRS employess 6500 full-time and 500 part-timer workers in UT, making it one of the top 15 largest employers in the state, amounting to approx $270 million into the local economy.

    The IRS is tasked with enforcing tax laws which fund the many govt programs citizens voted for and benefit from.
    As with any public agency tasked with enforcing laws--will we benefit if their job becomes harder?

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    March 17, 2014 12:47 p.m.

    The non profit world has long since politicized itself.

  • E Sam Provo, UT
    March 17, 2014 12:07 p.m.

    Mike Richards,
    It is true that Malik Obama has founded a non-profit organization, named after his father, Barack H. Obama, and that Malik is a half-brother to the President. However, the non-profit in question has not applied for, (nor, obviously, been granted) 401(c)(3) status. It has been fundraising in Virginia, quite possibly illegally. It is not 'raising funds for political advertizing' for 'Barack H. Obama. It could hardly do so, since the Barack H. Obama it's named for is dead.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 17, 2014 11:30 a.m.

    Mike Richards,

    If that is to be allowed then yes, all should be allowed. That is not my point. My point is that NO organization that is primarily political should get tax exempt status. Right, left or in the middle is irrelevant. Who you know should be irrelevant.

    We should not make policy on a case by case basis. All should run through the same sieve. I understand that this may not have been true for the case you cite. I also understand that it is not always true when we reverse who holds the White House.

    My simple question to you is, do you agree or not that organizations that are primarily (not just incidentally) political should not be able to benefit from tax exempt status as if they were a charity?

  • Mark B Eureka, CA
    March 17, 2014 11:24 a.m.

    It's not the right to speak that's the issue here. It's the right to do so on a TAX FREE basis. Organizations with such a privilege are supposed to be involved in "social welfare", a fuzzy term that has left the door open for abuse, especially by those with plenty of corporate cash or, as they call it, "free speech". Is that what the Constitution intends, Mike?

  • ustraveler Victor, ID
    March 17, 2014 11:19 a.m.

    In general, I lean towards allowing free speech. If that is speech I don't agree with then that's the price I pay for living in a free society. The Supreme Court gutted the fairly draconian law with it's Citizen's United decision. Lois Lerner's emails highlighted her concern that the decision would impact the Democratic Party. The majority of groups targeted were conservative in nature. The average wait time for these groups seems to be more than a year. The intimate nature of the questions and the repeated use of the same questions suggests that they were targeted. I believe it's a canard to shout that a few liberal groups received similar treatment while 98% of those targeted were conservative in nature.

    If we are to be fair, then the IRS must treat everyone equally under the law. They haven't. I no longer trust them or any new rules they wish to develop. Keep the existing rules and apply it equally to both..... not in a 98%-2% approach that leaves the IRS open to being accused of bias.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    March 17, 2014 11:08 a.m.

    I wish Obama was the left-winger described in this blog. It just isn't so. Leftist leaning organizations are being subjected to INTENSIVE surveillance by this adminstration. To my fellow left-wingers: don't give Obama a pass on this stuff. You'll regret it.

  • factsplease SLO, CA
    March 17, 2014 10:57 a.m.

    I'm surprised (not) a DN editorial would resort to distortion, innuendo, and misleading statements.

    One would think they at least would read the Inspector General's report.

    First, there is zero evidence the IRS scrutiny involved the White House.

    Second, the IG report states "Specifically, only first-line management approved references to the Tea Party in the BOLO listing criteria before it was implemented." (It was later revealed that a self-identified Republican manager in the Cinncinati office initiated the scrutiny of Conservative named groups).

    Liberal groups were also scrutinized-- resulting in denials.

    Additionally, it was the Citizens United decision which ignited the high number of groups seeking 501(c)4 status. ProPublica reported that 84% of the money flooded conservative organizations. Therefore, one could argue that proportionally, conservative groups warranted a larger proportion of scrutiny.

    The FBI investigated and found no illegal activity.

    Congress writes tax laws, the Federal Reserve writes the regulations for the laws and the IRS uses the FED guidelines to implement the laws. The FED and the IRS are in the process of reviewing and revamping this section of the tax code.

  • Liberal Today Murray, UT
    March 17, 2014 10:44 a.m.

    Liberalism/socialism is for the public good, so those organizations which campaign for liberal Democrat candidates are doing the public good and should be tax exempt, while conservative republican candidates supporters should not be tax exempt because they are not socialist.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    March 17, 2014 10:42 a.m.

    Lois Lerner knows full well, but she isn't talking, is she Demos? Do you care why she isn't talking? That is, if she has nothing to hide! "There isn't a smidgeon of corruption in the IRS"? Barrack Obama.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    March 17, 2014 10:39 a.m.

    Twin Lights,

    If Malik Obama and his "non-profit" organization "Barak H. Obama Foundation" is allowed by Mr. Barak H. Obama to solicit funds and to pay for political advertisements for Barak H. Obama, then all organizations that solicit funds to pay for any political candidate should be allowed. Just because Malik is Obama's half-brother does not give him or the organization that he founded any special rights.

    The question that must be answered is whether special favors should be extended to any organization just because that organization is approved of by the President. That is inequality under the law. Because Malik Obama was given approval and the approval was made retroactive for two years, then every organization whose purpose it is is to promote a political party or a political candidate should be given equal treatment and their organization should be allowed to be non-profit and given two-years retroactive credit.

  • 1conservative WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    March 17, 2014 10:35 a.m.

    After reading the usual liberal commenters here, along with their defense of the indefensible actions of the IRS; I have to wonder:

    WHY won't Lois Lerner testify to Congress? In the eyes of liberals, she obviously did nothing wrong. No reason not to. Or is there?

  • Mikhail ALPINE, UT
    March 17, 2014 10:28 a.m.

    Liberals who post at DN:

    1. This is an editorial piece.
    2. Of mainstream media, it can be expected that DN will lean more right than others.
    3. Corruption is corruption, regardless of political affiliation.
    4. Why would a head of the IRS need to assert the 5th Amendment to avoid answering questions about her department "doing its job?" Might self incrimination be a threat to her? Since when does the 5th Amendment belong inside an administration who claims that transparency is of the highest order?
    5. Really, the Koch brothers are the biggest threat to freedom? Really? Really?

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    March 17, 2014 10:25 a.m.


    "Maybe some liberal groups were targeted, but if you read the news, they found that conservative groups were targeted way, way, way more often."

    Because many more conservative than liberal groups formed in the aftermath of Citizens United. The only scandal here is that the IRS wasn't enforcing their own standards requiring the work to be "primarily" involved with social welfare. Almost none of these groups should've gotten tax exempt status.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    March 17, 2014 10:18 a.m.

    Hey, right wing: I just read an article (relating to a former Utahn now working at Hunton & Williams) and it noted that during the Bush years, investigations were taking place against liberal groups. So, be careful about calling the kettle black. In the end, the rules always seemed clear to me, that tax-exempt organizations need to stay out of partisan political activities.

  • RG Buena Vista, VA
    March 17, 2014 10:13 a.m.

    Maybe some liberal groups were targeted, but if you read the news, they found that conservative groups were targeted way, way, way more often. Basically reports that liberals and conservatives were equally targeted were red herrings and were later corrected. This is a major scandal, folks! Even besides the scandal aspect, I am disappointed that so many here would cede their free speech rights to the IRS. It is a slippery slope and someday we will realize that we have lost our rights, piecemeal.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    March 17, 2014 9:56 a.m.

    cor·rup·tion noun \kə-ˈrəp-shən\ :"dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers." Merriam Webster dictionary
    Two questions;
    #1: Why do Democrats defend corruption?
    #2: What will honest Americans do to clean up the blatant corruption in Washington DC?

  • John Charity Spring Back Home in Davis County, UT
    March 17, 2014 9:37 a.m.

    This letter is correct in its condemnation of the federal government's actions in attempting to impose its will on the very thoughts and beliefs of its citizens. Indeed, the federal government could not be more heavy handed.

    We must ask ourselves whether the actions of the current left-wing administration are really any different from those of the hard line communists of the old USSR. In both cases, the governments did not hesitate to attack any and all groups with opposing views.

    The true issue is the left's effort to turn this Country into a European-style socialist state. That effort must be resisted.

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    March 17, 2014 9:13 a.m.

    Good, it's about time they actually enforce what the law says.

    @Thid Barker
    Only one group was completely rejected in their tax exempt status request... a liberal group. You see it turns out that when Issa commissions a report on targeting of conservative groups... it just ignores targeting of liberal groups. Reality is the law requiring them to be primarily involved in social activism should've led to most of these groups on both sides being rejected.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 17, 2014 9:11 a.m.

    Mike Richards,

    No question that this president (or any other) should be able to pick and choose who can speak.

    But this is a broader question. Should these organizations that primarily do nothing more than lobby for this or that political end be considered in the same group as charities and be allowed tax exempt status?

    I do no believe they should regardless of whether I agree or disagree with them and regardless of who is president.

    Tax exempt is a peculiar status. If we grant it too willingly the taxpayers will (rightly) object and many other (truly charitable) organizations will come under fire.

  • E Sam Provo, UT
    March 17, 2014 9:11 a.m.

    Tell the truth, DN. NOT all targeted groups were conservative.

  • Badgerbadger Murray, UT
    March 17, 2014 9:02 a.m.

    Let me guess, all the liberal groups will be deemed "for the public good" and all the conservative groups will not.

    So what has changed? Oh, yeah, IRS targeting of republicans and conservatives will no longer require an investigation. It will be legal.

  • freedomingood provo, Utah
    March 17, 2014 8:56 a.m.

    Sad, you always figure discernment, if not just basic journalism should keep the DN from printing false propaganda. The first report only mentions conservative groups because that's all the republicans wanted to hear.

    The Treasury inspector general whose report helped drive the IRS targeting controversy says it limited its examination to conservative groups because of a request from House Republicans.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    March 17, 2014 8:55 a.m.

    I'm all for fairness, too. I believe that the Constitution defines fairness for all of us, including Mr. Obama. The Constitution states: "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."

    Read about Malik Obama, the President's half-brother. Read about What Malik Obama is doing. Read about the "Barack H. Obama Foundation" created by Malik Obama and given tax-exempt status with two-years retroactive "accommodation"

    When a President uses the influence of his office to wage political war on those who speak out against him, he has violated his oath of office: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

    The right to speak freely is a guaranteed right. Obama has no authority to choose who or what can speak or to limit that speech in any way.

  • Mark B Eureka, CA
    March 17, 2014 8:36 a.m.

    I'm just fine with "fairness", but I'm afraid that the Koch brothers' version of it is radically different from mine..

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    March 17, 2014 8:07 a.m.

    "Under the new rules, “campaign-related political activity” doesn’t represent work done of the common good or general welfare. "

    Who can argue with this? All the big money in politics does is benefit those who give the money and purchase political favors.

    In fact "campaign-related political activity" does just the opposite of "common good"

    It is legalized bribery. Far Far to many organizations are tax exempt.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    March 17, 2014 8:03 a.m.

    Wise people support the efforts of IRS to sort out the true charitable non-profits from those like American Legislative Exchange Council that perverts "charitable" status into a cover for hard-core political pressure of lawmakers.

    Obama and his administration should be praised for what they are trying to do.

  • FT salt lake city, UT
    March 17, 2014 7:56 a.m.

    The DN shows it colors with this editorial. Citizens United ruling dramatically changed our political system with huge influx's of cash. What BO is doing is honorable and right. The DN editorial board would prefer the people turn over their goverment to corporations, the religous and rich.

  • Thid Barker Victor, ID
    March 17, 2014 7:50 a.m.

    Imagine the howls of protest from the left if the IRS targeted the NAACP, unions or Planned Parenthood! Why, there would be a "constitutional crisis"! There would be protest marches. There would be outrage! But only because the IRS targeted conservative groups, (and admitted doing so)the only thing we hear from the left is, denial, obfuscation, blaming some "rich" guy or it "serves them right"! What goes around comes around libs and when it does I hope you remember your denial, your acceptance and even applause of illegal government abuses! After all, you DO believe in fairness, don't you?

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 17, 2014 7:44 a.m.

    There is a distinction between a group primarily engaged in social welfare that, here and there interacts with the political world, and what is effectively a lobbying group that engages in little or no actual social welfare work.

    Clearly groups of the first type should be tax exempt. The question is, should groups of the second type be tax exempt? That is, do their activities sufficiently relate to the normal charitable type activities we normally grant tax except status?

    Don't talk about conservative, liberal, or anything else. That is irrelevant. The simple question is, should groups that are primarily political lobbying groups be tax exempt (and also be effectively opaque regarding their donors)?

    After we answer these questions we should then look to be sure the IRS enforces fairly across the board.

  • Thid Barker Victor, ID
    March 17, 2014 6:58 a.m.

    If a Democratic president can use the IRS to target conservative groups without consequence, what’s to prevent a Republican president from doing the same thing to liberal groups?

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    March 17, 2014 6:45 a.m.

    First, the exemption from tax liability is a privilege. Any organization may choose to do what they want, but if they want tax exempt status, they need to stay out of partisan politics. Two, the right wing complained about the so-called targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, even though scrutiny was also on left wing groups. The GOP beat his non-story to death and keep flaming the fans. If the IRS is going to tighten things up as a result, then this paper and other right wingers need to suck it up and take the medicine. The "uproar" of this paper and others on the right is hypocritically unseemly. I guess you also support the Citizens United ruling and the out of control buying of elections we now see?

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    March 17, 2014 5:02 a.m.

    Way to spin there, Deseret News!

    The number of "Social Welfare" organizations exploded following the Supreme Court's disastrous Citizens United decision. "Social Welfare" groups spread like wildfire and morphed into political fundraising and campaign ad-buying organizations created solely for the purpose of funneling vast amounts of money into American elections - and at the same time making this flood of campaign cash both anonymous and tax-exempt.

    The IRS was tasked with trying to figure out which groups seeking tax-exempt status were legitimate social welfare organizations, and which were money-laundering schemes to influence elections while hiding donor identities.

    Some IRS employees tasked with sniffing out political organizations illegally seeking tax-exempt status started searching for key words in applicant organizations' titles as a way to decide which applications deserved a human review before tax-exempt status was granted. Yes, those key words included "Tea Party" and "Conservative." The IRS also used as keyword search terms "Progressive" and "Liberal."

    There was no political bias by the IRS, they were simply trying to cope with the administrative nightmare created by Citizens United. But you, Deseret News chose to politicize that fact.

  • AggieScientist Logan, UT
    March 17, 2014 4:35 a.m.

    The statement that "all groups subjected to increased scrutiny and delay of tax-exempt status were conservative" is patently false. Even an analysis done by the conservative Wall Street Journal found progressive groups that were targeted. The Deseret News Editorial Board hurts its own credibility when it states such obvious falsehoods.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    March 17, 2014 12:09 a.m.

    "what’s to prevent a Republican president from doing the same thing to liberal groups? " Well the muscle in such activities belongs to outfits funded by the likes of the Koch Bros who have virtually unlimited funds to advocate for the elimination of things like social security and medicare. The candidate who has the most funding for his campaign, direct or indirect, almost always wins. As a social security and medicare recipient I am terrified of the muscle on the billionaire right. So as a matter of self-preservation I don't like the tone of your editorial.