Kaylin is absolutely right about the recent New York Times article on the IRS scandal. The piece alleges that certain groups applying for tax-exempt status deserved to be scrutinized, and that may be true. But it also ignores two weeks of developments in the scandal, including that conservative applications were blocked entirely for 27 months; that the scope of the audits went far beyond 501(c)(4)s; that the harassment wasn’t just carried out by the IRS, but also the Department of Labor, the ATF, the FBI, and OSHA; and that several applications were inappropriately leaked by the IRS to left-wing news outlet ProPublica.
Now the Times’s myopic article is metastasizing across the left. Here’s Steve Benen:
Given this, it’s simply absurd to assume that every conservative group subjected to lengthy IRS examination is a victim of an out-of-control agency acting on partisan motivations. If our tax laws are going to have any meaning, groups like these should be subjected to detailed IRS scrutiny. These aren’t examples of the agency going too far; they’re examples of the agency doing its job.
None of this is to say an investigation of the IRS’s process is unnecessary. There are documented instances when the agency stepped beyond the lines of acceptability. What this shows, however, is that there’s still no substance behind the idea that it was engaged in political or ideological targeting.
Under the law, 501(c)(4)s cannot be “primarily engaged” in electioneering activity. Though the guidelines for acceptable levels of political activity are unclear, organizations with such designations operate under the understanding that they are prohibited from spending more than 49 percent of their funds or time on political advocacy.
The IRS wasn’t engaged in political targeting…when it stalled all Tea Party applications for more than two years while waving through liberal ones? The groups were violating election law…and that’s why the DoL was sent in to audit a Romney donor? It may very well be true that 501(c)(4) status is abused and that several conservative groups should have been more closely examined. But that information must be placed in the greater context of this story.
And for the most part, that greater context has been ignored by left-wing pundits. We’ve sat through a lot of supercilious back-patting over the past few years about how conservatives, unlike liberals, are stuck in a bubble where they only communicate with each other in between painful flare-ups of epistemic closure. But what happens when a real story, amounting to an authentic and widespread abuse of power, is discussed almost exclusively within that conservative bubble? It means that those who don’t follow right-wing media end up gazing at the spectacle through a keyhole, discussing that tiny view with those of like minds while missing out on the lion’s share of the story.
Come to think of it, that sounds a bit like a bubble doesn’t it?
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