Sunday, May 19, 2013

THE INTERNAL REVENUE TAX "SCANDAL" IS NOT WHAT OPPORTUNISTS CLAIM IT IS




Harry Targ

Heritage Action for America is a unique combination of top-notch conservative policy analysis, a widely respected government relations team and dedicated grassroots activists that advance conservative policy. 

…As a 501(c)(4) organization, Heritage Action for America allows unprecedented coordination and communication with concerned citizens who want to be part of their national dialogue. We speak directly to the American people and help them break through the establishment in Washington. (from Heritage Action for America website).

According to the Internal Revenue Code organizations may apply and be eligible for tax exempt status under Section 501 (c) (4) if they engage primarily in “social welfare activities.” Contributors to 501 (c) (4) organizations need not disclose their names.

In a recent website update on legislative issues being debated in the House of Representatives, Heritage Action for America, a 501 (c) (4) advocated the repeal of the Affordable Care Act; endorsed the Full Faith and Credit Act, which would prioritize debt payment before financing federal spending; and supported legislation, the Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act, suspending the National Labor Relations Board from acting until such time as the Senate approves appointments to the Board. 

Indiana Congressman Todd Rokita (4th Congressional District) wrote his constituents on May 17, 2013 that “…the IRS had specifically targeted legally-established non-profit conservative groups by singling them out for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.”  Heritage Action for America assigned Rokita a grade of 79 (out of 100) for his legislative record in the last session of Congress, not far behind long-time right-winger Dan Burton and new Indiana governor Mike Pence. Conservative former Democratic Congressman, now Senator, Joe Donnelly received a score of 23.

The principle of granting tax exemptions for groups that engage in social welfare was introduced in the Revenue Act of 1913 and revised in the tax code of the 1950s. Once groups are declared eligible, such as the Heritage Foundation’s  Heritage Action for America, donors can contribute anonymously.  Meanwhile the organizations so approved can advertise on television, radio, and the print media against programs advocated by those with different political orientations. Ironically groups like Heritage Action for America define their political advocacy for tax purposes as social welfare. And, most importantly, organizations supporting the candidacy of right-wing Republicans such as Todd Rokita are receiving tax exemptions. 

In short, Rokita has a high Heritage Action for America favorability score for opposing affordable health care for most Americans; federal programs for childhood nutrition, education, and emergency health services for the elderly; and government protection for worker rights. 

If the Internal Revenue Service is to be criticized, the attacks should be leveled at the government’s inadequate scrutiny of political lobbying groups who are granted tax exempt status contrary to the intention of the law. Those of us who are concerned about the undue intrusion of big money in politics should be working to insist that the tax code be applied as it was intended so that politicians like Rokita cannot get away with railing against “big government” while they benefit from how it has been applied to them.