Case in point: The admission last week by the chief of the Internal Revenue Service that the agency targeted conservative organizations seeking status as tax-exempt social welfare groups.
While both liberal and conservative groups were taking advantage of the “Citizens United” ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2010 to create organizations that engage in political spending, the agency focused primarily on the applications from organizations that had words such as “tea party” and “patriot” in the name in questioning the validity of those organizations. A word like “progressive” in the name of a group, for instance, didn’t spark similar interest by the agency.
IRS officials later expanded their increased focus to groups that criticized “how the country was being run.”...
That this happened at all is an outrage. That then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman lied to congressional Republicans about the unfair IRS screening in March 2012 is worse.
“It is unconscionable that in the United States of America, groups were unfairly targeted by a government agency for exercising their First Amendment rights,” U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Marietta) said Friday. “Americans from every political affiliation should be outraged by this discrimination. I look forward to hearing additional information from the agency as to how it will guarantee this type of harassment is not continued in the future on any level.”
We agree with Isakson. ...
The 501(c)4 organizations are prized by political advocates because they’re not required to disclose donors’ names. Whether that is a healthy situation for American politics and whether those qualification requirements should be tightened are other topics. But what should not be up for debate is whether an organization should be singled out simply because of the political views of its members and supporters.
Government only works when those being governed believe that rules and regulations are being applied fairly, particularly across political lines. In this case, it is clear that they have not.