BARBARA SHELLY

Glenn Beck was right, and the IRS and Obama will never hear the end of it

Updated: 2013-05-14T23:22:10Z

By BARBARA SHELLY

The Kansas City Star

You’d better believe the IRS targeting of groups with “tea party” or “patriot” or “constitution” in their name is a scandal.

The disclosure that this was occurring in a Cincinnati Internal Revenue Service office and senior officials apparently knew about it as early as 2011 will prompt hearings and more hearings on Capitol Hill. There are few roles conservative groups relish as much as victim. Right-wing TV personality Glenn Beck has been foreshadowing the atrocity for months.

Truly, what were those folks in Cincinnati thinking? Did they not know that their targeting would result in a conservative firestorm? Singling out groups with keywords in their names was absolutely wrong.

And the shame of it is that the furor over the revelations is likely to distract attention from the real scandal. That is the proliferation of blatantly political organizations who seek tax-exempt status under the guise of promoting “social welfare,” while hiding the names of their donors.

Groups across the political spectrum are forming 501(c)(4) organizations, but conservative groups are the big spenders. OpenSecrets.org, which tracks money in politics, has tallied that of $308.5 million spent by tax-exempt “non-disclosing” groups in the 2012 election, $263 million was fronted by conservative groups.

The IRS was right to have its antenna up for these groups. Many of them have no more interest in promoting social welfare than Marie Antoinette. But to say that workers went about the job the wrong way is quite the understatement.

I suggest that in the future, the IRS may want to take a page from the Transportation Safety Administration, which is partial to “random checks.” The IRS should do that with 501 (c)(4) groups. Single out one in three, or one in four, for additional scrutiny, as they are received.

With the conservative blogosphere in full accusatory mode, it probably does no good to mention that the head of the IRS when the scandal occurred, Douglas Shulman, was a George W. Bush appointee.

It’s fine if conservatives want to insist on equal treatment for liberal 501 (c)(4) groups. They should be looked at also. The worst outcome would be for the IRS to back off and give all of these groups a free pass.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to bshelly@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bshelly.

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