Thursday, May 16, 2013

What's Really Wrong

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (May 14, 2013) and featured at McClatchy, DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Michael Hiltzig took a look at one of the three major "scandals" swirling around the White House.  His conclusions pretty much mirror mine.

It's strange how "scandal" gets defined these days in Washington. At the moment, everyone is screaming about the "scandal" of the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizing conservative nonprofits before granting them tax-exempt status.

Here are the genuine scandals in this affair: Political organizations are being allowed to masquerade as charities to avoid taxes and keep their donors secret, and the IRS has allowed them to do this for years.

The bottom line first: The IRS hasn't done nearly enough over the years to rein in the subversion of the tax law by political groups claiming a tax exemption that is not legally permitted for campaign activity. Nor has it enforced rules requiring that donors to those groups pay gift tax on their donations. ...

Our lunatic campaign finance system is what turned the typical C4 from a volunteer fire department into a conduit of anonymous political cash. Big donors were given the green light to spend freely on elections by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. That wasn't good enough for some; they wanted to distribute their largess secretly.

C4s were there for the exploitation, and the result has been a wholesale decline of donor disclosure on the national level: As recently as 1998, nearly 100% of all donors to federal campaigns were publicly identified, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group. By the 2012 presidential election, that was down to 40%. ...

The danger inherent in the latest faux controversy is that the IRS will have its wings clipped before its investigation of C4s is fully fledged. Politicos and pundits are in a lather over the questions the agency put to targeted organizations to determine their social welfare bona fides — things like the identity of their board members and the amount of time and money spent on "electoral issues," and endorsements of candidates. These facts would be pretty fundamental to determining whether an organization is political, wouldn't you say?  

The real crime is the way Karl Rove and the Koch brothers have scammed the system.  This brouhaha over the IRS targeting conservatives is simply to deflect an examination of that crime.  Unfortunately, the Village press is only too happy to cooperate in that deflection.

Or it was.  Let's see if AP is going change its tune now that they've been subjected to a loss of constitutional rights, eh?  Maybe AP and other news organs will start doing their jobs a little more assiduously.

Nah ... that's too much to ask.

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