I have been listening all week to conservative talk show hosts contend that the IRS has a bias against conservative nonprofit groups. While I agree that the IRS was wrong to target Tea Party groups, I also think it is important to keep some perspective. The IRS does have a duty to investigate whether nonprofit groups are front organizations for political lobbying. The guestion is, are they being fair.
I decided to explore the question of prejudice by seeking a neutral standard. I decided to put conservative nonprofits on one side of the ledger and liberal nonprofits on the other. I then simply asked the question, “how much of the money each side raised received a tax exemption?” It seemed to me, that tally would be a fair test.
Here is what I discovered at opensecrets.org:
“Of the 21 organizations that received rulings from the IRS after January 1, 2010, and filed FEC reports in 2010 or 2012, 13 were conservative. They outspent the liberal groups in that category by a factor of nearly 34-to-1, the Center for Responsive Politics analysis shows.”
So conservative nonprofits are outspending liberal nonprofits 34-1, and still feeling mistreated. That total does not include some of the biggest conservative spenders like Karl Rove’s group that has yet to be approved, but is already raising money. I do not know the answer, but our democracy faces a tremendous crisis that the IRS was trying to address in these investigations. Citizens United has allowed corporations to empty enormous sums of “dark money” into our political process and hide behind tax exempt groups. I agree it is unfair to single out conservative nonprofits, so the only options I can think of are to either wave tax exempt status for everyone, or open all groups to the same kind of rigid scrutiny.