Political fronts posing as charities

Monday, June 3, 2013   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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I think of a “social welfare charity” being like The Little Sisters of the Poor – not The Little Koch Brothers of the Plutocracy.

Yet, the brothers have created their very own social welfare charity, which they used as a political front group for funneling $39 million into campaigns against Democrats last year. Interesting, since, under IRS rules, 501(c)(4) “charities” are supposed to do philanthropic work for the welfare of all, not political hatchet jobs for billionaires. In fact, the law bans these tax-exempt entities from spending more than 49 percent of their funding on political efforts to promote their “issues.”

Yet, hundreds of these (c)(4)s – mostly right-wing – are flagrantly violating the tax law by operating primarily as political fronts for funneling secret corporate donations into raw, partisan campaigns. How did they get their privileged status as charities? By outright lying to the IRS, then defying the agency to stop them as they dump millions of corrupt dollars into our elections.

For example, American Action Network, a (c)(4) created by Wall Street lobbyists, has spent two-thirds of its revenue on elections, including putting up $745,000 from secret donors to elect Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. How ironic, then, that Johnson is now one of the tea party mad dogs howling at IRS officials. It’s scandalous, Johnson shrieks, that some tea party groups have not been given (c)(4) status, because IRS agents have had the temerity to question whether the groups actually are charitable enterprises – or just rank political outfits fraudulently posing as charities.

Tea Party groups should not be singled out for IRS scrutiny, but neither should they be allowed to cheat by shamefully masquerading as Little Sisters of the Poor. That’s the real scandal.

"Groups Targeted By I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics," The New York Times, May 27, 2013.

"Five 501(c)(4) Groups That Might Have Broken the Law," www.thenation.com, May 21, 2013.

"Dubious Dealing of Tea Party Groups Could Have Drawn IRS Scrutiny," www.motherjones.com, May 17, 2013

"Whose Welfare?" The New York Times, June 4, 2012.

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