Patterico's Pontifications

5/15/2013

L.A. Times’s Michael Hiltzik: Hooray for the IRS’s Targeting of Tea Party Groups!

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Scum — Patterico @ 7:35 am

The IRS’s targeting of conservative groups has at least one unabashed fan: Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times. As evidence mounts that the IRS fast-tracked applications by left-leaning organizations while erecting burdensome obstacles for conservatives, Hiltzik cheers from the sidelines, praising the IRS and placing the word “scandal” in scare quotes:

It’s strange how “scandal” gets defined these days in Washington. At the moment, everyone is screaming about the “scandal” of the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizing conservative nonprofits before granting them tax-exempt status.

Here are the genuine scandals in this affair: Political organizations are being allowed to masquerade as charities to avoid taxes and keep their donors secret, and the IRS has allowed them to do this for years.

. . .

It’s about time the IRS subjected all of these outfits to scrutiny. The agency’s inaction has served the purposes of donors and political organizations on both sides of the aisle, and contributed to the explosive infection of the electoral process by big money from individuals and corporations.

The problem, as Hiltzik well knows (but almost entirely ignores), is that the IRS did not treat “both sides of the aisle” equally. A USA Today story describes how, just before the new anti-Tea Party policy went into effect, an Illinois Tea Party organization had its application speedily approved. But, the story goes on to explain:

That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn’t be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months.

In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows.

As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months.

. . . .

Like the Tea Party groups, the liberal groups sought recognition as social welfare groups under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, based on activities like “citizen participation” or “voter education and registration.”

The Inspector General’s report is now available, and it confirms USA Today‘s conclusion that the IRS’s criteria do not appear to have been impartial:

[T]he criteria developed by the Determinations Unit gives the appearance that the IRS is not impartial in conducting its mission. The criteria focused narrowly on the names and policy positions of organizations instead of tax-exempt laws and Treasury Regulations.

The report has a chart that shows criteria in June 2011 for increased scrutiny:

The harshest criticism Hiltzik can muster for these one-sided criteria is that they provide “too coarse a screen.” He does not seem at all troubled by the fact that the only names singled out for extra scrutiny were names associated with conservative principles such as limited government and lower taxes. In fact, he implies — without a scrap of evidence and in contradiction to the IG report and virtually every extant news article to have examined the subject — that the criteria were even-handed and that we are hearing only about the extra burdens placed on one side.

The bottom line is that we live in an America where 501(c)’s run by, say, convicted bomber and leftist serial partisan harasser Brett Kimberlin are put on the fast track, whereas 501(c)’s that are concerned with the expansion of government are delayed to the point of absurdity. And Michael Hiltzik thinks that is just peachy.

Hiltzik is not a stupid man, just a dishonest one. He knows full well that the problem with the IRS’s actions is the disparate treatment given conservatives and leftists. If you want absolute proof that Hiltzik’s views are partisan hackery as opposed to a genuine concern over dirty money in politics, you need only read this passage:

[O]nce again, now that the agency has tried to regulate, the regulated parties have blown its efforts up into a “scandal.” It’s amusing to reflect that some politicians making hay over this are the same people who contend that we don’t need more regulations, we just need to enforce the ones we have. (Examples: gun control and banking regulation.) Here’s a case where the IRS is trying to enforce regulations that Congress enacted, and it’s still somehow doing the wrong thing.

Keep that in mind when you hear politicians — and they’re not exclusively Republicans — grandstanding about how the IRS actions are “chilling” or “un-American.” It turns out that none of the “targeted” groups actually was denied C4 status.

Oh! Well, if they weren’t denied C4 status, then all is well!

Except that, as the IG report details:

[T]he applications for those organizations that were identified for processing by the team of specialists experienced significant delays and requests for unnecessary information.

And again, these delays and burdensome and unnecessary requests fell primarily (if not exclusively) on one side of the aisle, and caused many conservatives to give up on obtaining tax-exempt status for their group.

Apparently Michael Hiltzik thinks that it would be OK to have a four-hour line for Republicans at the DMV, while “progressives” speed through an express line. Hey, no Republicans were denied licenses, were they?

We probably should apply greater scrutiny to tax-exempt organizations generally. I’d be fine with abolishing such organizations entirely. Indeed, the fact that taxpayers subsidize political activity is what gives government the power to favor one side over another.

But any extra scrutiny needs to be even-handed, and that is the problem that Hiltzik deliberately overlooks.

Memo to Hiltzik: the IRS itself has apologized and said that their targeting of conservatives was inappropriate. How much of a hack do you have to be to defend them after they admitted what they did was wrong?

Boy, it sure would be awful if the Koch brothers bought the L.A. Times and folks like Michael Hiltzik quit in a huff. How could we survive without utter partisan nonsense like this in the pages of our hometown newspaper?

68 Responses to “L.A. Times’s Michael Hiltzik: Hooray for the IRS’s Targeting of Tea Party Groups!”

  1. Unbelievable — and yet, from this guy, very believable.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. Justice delayed for liberals is justice denied, justice delayed for conservative is business as usual.

    htom (412a17)

  3. there’s a difference between scrutiny and harassment

    not that a fascist propaganda slut can be expected to know the difference

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  4. Have the Koch Brothers fired him yet?

    SPQR (768505)

  5. to say Hiltzik blows
    doesn’t quite capture teh scope
    Hurricane Hiltzik!

    Colonel Haiku (1d6084)

  6. these delays and burdensome and unnecessary requests fell primarily on one side of the aisle

    primarily? Is there evidence that any progressive-leaning groups were subjected to the same treatment? If not, I’d characterize it as ‘exclusively’ on one side…

    steve (369bc6)

  7. Good point. I’ll add the phrase: “if not exclusively.”

    Patterico (9c670f)

  8. Some applications were never approved or were abandoned due to harassment. Now we know why the Tea Party groups were less active in the 2012 election. Mission Accomplished for Obama.

    Mike K (87eb3a)

  9. These are the same people that claim voter suppression for people having to wait 2-3 hours to vote.

    JD (b63a52)

  10. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Look at the people who have been openly critical of the admin who have been scrutinized – reporter in StL, Catholic writer featured at The Blaze today, and the full weight of the government on the folks at True The Vote.

    JD (b63a52)

  11. Ah, the much vaunted “specialists” will take care of everything.

    Government is good.

    Patricia (be0117)

  12. It was an isolate incident with low level staffers and managers across the country, and a taskforce of specialists in DC.

    JD (ee8414)

  13. “The group’s online materials refer to it as ‘an American leadership development enterprise.’ Its stated purpose is to mentor high school and college students, placing an emphasis on Western civilization and an old-style core curriculum – what previous generations called the ‘great books.’”

    SarahW (b0e533)

  14. You know what’s really odd? Our resident idiot liberals — Perry and Dad — haven’t stepped up to defend the Obama administration. I’d love to hear their take on all the scandals, I could use a good belly laugh.

    Chuck Bartowski (11fb31)

  15. Apparently Michael Hiltzik thinks that it would be OK to have a four-hour line for Republicans at the DMV, while “progressives” speed through an express line. Hey, no Republicans were denied licenses, were they?

    Didn’t SCOTUS deal with seperate but equal back in ’54?

    ropelight (af89aa)

  16. Now is the time. Solve the problem permanently. Eliminate the status. Get rid of all government anointed tax exempt non profits–the good the bad and the ugly. Let organizations stand on their own. Bonus: fewer bureaucrats will be needed to “oversee” them. Bonus: there will be fewer government “grants” for poorly run, shady and outright fraudulent advocacy groups.

    elissa (33fa31)

  17. Ha! Dad and Perry, that’s rich
    Lick wounds in some dank fetid ditch
    Think they’ll give Prez big boost
    Vultures come home to roost
    He skates I’ll be son of a b*tch

    Colonel Haiku (1cfc51)

  18. Half measures won’t do it, solve the bigger problem elissa, while the iron is hot let’s eliminate the IRS entirely, stop taxing income and enact a national sales tax collected at the retail level. No more IRS bureaucracy, no more withholding or W-2s, forget about deductions, exemptions, and penalties.

    Eliminate government waste, eliminate the IRS.

    ropelight (af89aa)

  19. The prospect of a partisan IRS overseeing the implementation of Obamacare should scare the heck out of everyone.

    rochf (f3fbb0)

  20. what do you think the chances are that The TIDES foundation is ever investigated? This is a hug — if not the hugest– left wing money-laundering operation in existence.

    jb (169a0b)

  21. To #12: and the joe the Plumber was an isolated affair too. Lots of acolytes on your side.

    jb (169a0b)

  22. Obama’s folks quite purposely used the IRS to suppress Republican grass-roots efforts in 2012 after they had been so badly beaten up by them in 2010.

    Enough to call the close election into question? Probably not. Yet. But calling it “fair and free” is getting difficult, given this and the press slant.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  23. Some important information here. McArdle:

    The real scandal is that pundits (and the voters who read them) don’t understand the relevant law. Josh Barro of Bloomberg addresses some of the most common misconceptions:

    So when Jeffrey Toobin writes in the New Yorker today that what the IRS did was OK in part because “501(c)(4) organizations must refrain from traditional partisan political activity, like endorsing candidates,” he’s wrong.
    There are limits: 501(c)(4)’s can’t have electioneering as a primary purpose (such organizations must incorporate as 527s, which have to disclose their donors) and they cannot coordinate directly with political parties. They can’t have a narrow focus of advancing their funders’ financial interests; for example, utility companies can’t form a 501(c)4 to lobby for higher utility rates. That doesn’t likely implicate groups with broad goals like shrinking the government.
    There are limits: 501(c)(4)’s can’t have electioneering as a primary purpose (such organizations must incorporate as 527s, which have to disclose their donors) and they cannot coordinate directly with political parties. They can’t have a narrow focus of advancing their funders’ financial interests; for example, utility companies can’t form a 501(c)4 to lobby for higher utility rates. That doesn’t likely implicate groups with broad goals like shrinking the government.

    It’s true that 501(c)(4) organizations are supposed to promote “social welfare”, but these days, most people have decided that the best way to promote social welfare is to lobby the government to do something about it. That’s why the Sierra Club, the Human Rights Campaign, and Organizing for Action (essentially an extension of Obama’s campaign) can all be organized under this section of the tax code.

    Relatedly, I’ve fielded a number of questions from folks who were under the misimpression that donations to these groups were tax deductible. They’re not. The “tax exempt” status means that these groups don’t have to pay taxes on contributions, which would otherwise be booked as profits.

    Which brings me to my third point:
    The real scandal is that all these complicated tax rules exist. If we would just eliminate the corporate income tax, then people could organize groups, or not, just as they please. And the IRS would not be in the position of deciding what counts as excessive political activity.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/14/the-real-scandals-of-the-irs.html

    elissa (33fa31)

  24. So, a system that allocated newsprint first to “reliable” newspapers wouldn’t be a problem with him either (for some values of “reliable”).

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  25. Excellent fisking, but really, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Perhaps Larry Elder will have Hiltzik return to Elder’s radio show for a little cross-examination.

    Mitch (341ca0)

  26. Elissa–

    And this is just their rationale.

    Left-wing political groups, when lobbying for their positions, promote “social welfare” because they dream of rainbows and unicorns. Those on the right, however, are selfish, greedy, if not pure evil, and almost always oppose “social welfare” because they worship money and oppress everyone.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  27. Boy, it sure would be awful if the Koch brothers bought the L.A. Times and folks like Michael Hiltzik quit in a huff.

    But the Koch’s would fill the paper with propaganda, replacing the Times’ even-handed coverage. As Hiltzig defines even-handed.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  28. Our esteemed host (rhetorically) asked:

    How much of a hack do you have to be to defend them after they admitted what they did was wrong?

    Oh, Mr Hiltzik realized that the IRS’ apology was never meant sincerely. The Obama Administration officials think that it’s a fine idea, and are only sorry that they got caught. Mr Hiltzik knows this.

    The unsurprised Dana (3e4784)

  29. I think Perry has left us for good
    In moderation I think he really could
    Have made his case
    without being an ass
    But do that is not what he would.

    The Limerick Avenger (3e4784)

  30. If my memory serves me correctly, Michael Hiltzik was once suspended by the LA Times for hacking into his colleagues’ email accounts when he was working at the Times’ bureau in Mosow, and then he was famously suspended several years ago for being a sockpuppet in the comments section of his own LA Times blog.

    So, given he’s had experience illegally accessing people’s personal information, it is no surprise that he is a cheerleader for what the IRS has done.

    Elephant Stone (65a34b)

  31. I apologize that the excerpt I posted from the Daily Beast @24 did not come through at all clearly which made the salient points more difficult to understand. As were present in the original article, there should have been indents to distinguish what Barro said, what Toobin said, and what McArdle said.

    If you’re interested in the broader context of 501 (c)(4) it’s probably worth your while to click on the link rather than rely on my hash of a blurb.

    elissa (33fa31)

  32. I think when the Koch brothers buy the LAT, they keep everybody; they just get some new senior editors who educate on how to get multiple sides of a story. It would be an education.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  33. If corporations were not taxed, Apple’s $137 billion cash reserves would have been tax free. Me no like that. Conversely, I would not like it if the Boy Scouts, having no stockholders to distribute dividends to, had to do a spend-down on things they did not want every year or pay taxes on income that is essentially a bunch of small gifts. This system that we have is not too irrational, just abused from time to time, and this time egregiously by the IRS.

    nk (875f57)

  34. How much of a hack do you have to be to defend them after they admitted what they did was wrong?

    Hey, Nixon said it would be wrong, too.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  35. There ya go… and he was “not a crook”…

    Colonel Haiku (399c43)

  36. ==This system that we have is not too irrational, just abused from time to time, and this time egregiously by the IRS.==

    Wow. Just Wow.

    elissa (33fa31)

  37. Another scandal…IRS sued for stealing millions of medical records. (Ace of Spades)

    Patricia (be0117)

  38. Hiltzik shows how much he hates actual democracy.

    SPQR (66f943)

  39. I disagree. The problem isn’t the unequal treatment as much as the government thinking it needs to know who donates to what private charity. This is none of their business in the first place.

    Hiltzik seems to think the IRS has a civic responsibility to illegally leak confidential information. There must be many Hiltziks at the IRS sifting through the data we are compelled to provide.

    The IRS has allowed people to anonymously donate money for years! Oh, the horror of it!

    Amphipolis (d3e04f)

  40. We no longer have freedom of association. We no longer have freedom of speech.

    But we do have abortion and free birth control, which they tell me are somehow apparently related to our constitutional right to privacy.

    Amphipolis (d3e04f)

  41. This is a test comment. I think one of my comments on another topic was swallowed.

    felipe (70ff7e)

  42. Hmmm, guess it was my error.

    felipe (70ff7e)

  43. Gabe Malor offers a few cautions in his twitter feed about the medical records civil lawsuit and the way it has been reported. For example, it’s not a suit against the IRS, but against 15 John Doe agents, that is, agents sued personally.

    He has some qualms about the attorney bringing suit, points out some problems with vagueness and “developing facts”

    SarahW (b0e533)

  44. Notice how our community organizer is aligning his forces to counter these scandals.

    1. The AP, and the media in general, have been put on notice that they had better not accept calls from whistle blowers. Massively comprehensive efforts to study phone records are now proven to be readily within the reach of the DoJ. And this can obviously be extended rapidly to other communication modes.

    2. Potential whistle blowers have been warned that any simple attempt to reach out to the media will most likely be discovered.

    3. Holder is calling on the FBI to “investigate” the IRS problem. This will erect yet another barrier to a Congressional investigation. I don’t think I’m being cynical in my expectation that we will shortly learn that witnesses will not be available to Congress because that would “compromise” the FBI’s effort.

    4. Most importantly, the country at large has been put on notice that their children and their private lives are not beyond the reach of the thugs in the government. In fact, the current effort to stifle dissent began with the rise of the Tea Party three years ago, and only now are we learning of it and how pervasive it was for those who dared to put themselves at the leading edge of the movement. So who knows what is currently being implemented … Homeland Security’s purchase of 2717 armored personnel carreriers for the purpose of serving warrants comes to mind as one possibility.

    If Congress proves itself to be incapable of mounting a strong defence of Individual Rights and Constitutional limitations on government, the real lesson that is drawn from the current IRS scandal will be that big government is beyond the electorate’s control.

    We live in interesting times.

    bobathome (c0c2b5)

  45. Obama has really just brought the Chicago Way to Washington after watching it function in Illinois. People only need to remind themselves of the frustration of Peter Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, who did manage to successfully prosecute Gov. George Ryan for corruption, but he was never able to lay a finger on Mayor Daley. Fitzgerald put a lot of Daley underlings and machine members away but could never make the final link to Daley. Obama learned those lessons well.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  46. good observation, daley. (It was Patrick Fitzgerald, tho.)

    elissa (33fa31)

  47. It’s about time the IRS subjected all of these outfits to scrutiny.

    By IRS scrutiny does he mean releasing confidential information such as the names of donors to the political enemies of “these outfits?”

    Steve57 (9b1cdb)

  48. “(It was Patrick Fitzgerald, tho.)”

    elissa – My bad.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  49. elissa – David Axelrod was a longtime strategist for Mayor Daley and often helped him put out scandal fires and Valerie Jarrett worked directly for Daley and was involved in city government for a long period of time.

    Coincidence? I think not.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  50. daleyrocks@45 and 50-

    100% agreement with your take on this, and the lessons learned and role of the respective players. The only difference may turn out to be that no matter what “deals” Mayor Daley was orchestrating for his friends behind the scenes (sale of parking meters for example) he still was able for a long time to maintain an amazing reservoir of good will from average citizens of both parties (including suburbanites). I believe that was primarily because it was pretty apparent that he and Maggie loved the idea of this city and loved its neighborhoods and people. Sure, I think most people knew there was corruption going on but looked at Detroit and other big cities and thought, “hey, RJD–and Chicago are not all that bad in comparison”.

    Our current president uses many of the same noxious handlers and fixers and rewards his cronies. But I am not sure that after just 4 years Obama has the depth and breadth of surface respect and good will among the populace that the Daley family acquired over decades. For sure he is not perceived as loving America the way Mayor Daley loves Chicago. Even in this day and age people still kind of want their president to love America and Americans, I think

    elissa (33fa31)

  51. @46 and 51, I mean

    elissa (33fa31)

  52. Well, elissa, he had Rezko in custody, and yet focused his attention, on some mid level officials, not Daley and not his patrons across the ocean,

    narciso (3fec35)

  53. “Well, elissa, he had Rezko in custody, and yet focused his attention, on some mid level officials, not Daley and not his patrons across the ocean,”

    narciso – I disagree. Fitzgerald wanted to nail Daley in the worst way, but the closest he could come was those underlings because of the way Daley had set things up. That’s the whole point. Axelrod and Jarrett were there with Daley setting up and designing that lack of accountability for the guy at the top and Obama is benefiting from it.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  54. Well, daley, I’ve seen how he gave the benefit of the doubt to Radler, and threw the book at Black,
    indicted Libby but left Armitage alone, I’m skeptical of how fair he is.

    narciso (3fec35)

  55. narciso – I believe Rezko dealt with mostly state contracts not city contracts, but I could be wrong.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  56. narciso- Fitz’s “fairness” to Armitage and Libbey and Black is kind of a separate issue to the point daley was making (and with which I wholeheartedly agree) in regard to Jarret and Axelrod and Axelrod’s firm knowing how to always effectively protect and cover the top guy.

    Do you in fact disagree that they successfully did this for Mayor Daley in Chicago and are now attempting to do the same sort of “keeping him out of the danger loop” for President Obama?

    elissa (33fa31)

  57. Also remember that Fitzgerald was parachuted into his position in Illinois. He did not live here.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  58. I don’t disagree with Jarrett and Axelrod’s function, daley, I do take issue with taking only the low hanging fruit, like Blago.

    narciso (3fec35)

  59. “I do take issue with taking only the low hanging fruit, like Blago.”

    narciso – What other fruit should have he taken?

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  60. Hiltzik is not a stupid man, just a dishonest one.

    He’s a disgusting human being too. I’d cut him some slack if he were a much younger fellow, but he’s 60 years old and can’t be excused for the weakness of youthful idiocy and high-school idealism. But there must be something intrinsic — something genetic — in the leftist perceptions of such people. A ton of bricks could fall on their thick skulls and they’d still be as philosophically corrupt and devious as they’ve always been.

    Again, I wouldn’t find such people contemptible if they at least didn’t fall for the notion that their ideology is imbued with such wonderful, compassionate qualities.

    As for the LA Times, it probably will always have enough economic viability to remain afloat (eg, look at niche publications like Mother Jones or, for that matter, National Review). But that’s unfortunate since such businesses are helping tank society, both financially and culturally. But they do illustrate the surprising swathes of this or any economy that are comprised of “zombies.”

    Mark (9ba6f2)

  61. Actually I think Hitzik may well be a stupid man. Did he think he could just blatantly lie to his readers as if they only read the times?

    Even the major news outlets are reporting on this. Even if the the average LAT zombie only watches CNN or See BS they’ll catch on to how Hiltzik just lied to them in his mischaracterization of the issue and all the important aspects he had to pretend don’t exist.

    And for that we should thank Michael Hiltzik for writing this crap.

    Steve57 (9b1cdb)

  62. And others withdrew from the process. No denial by the IRS but no 501(c)(4) approval either. Mission doubly accomplished. Hilzoy or whatever his real name is conveniently overlooked the chilling impact of improper scrutiny. But I am sure his sock puppet minions approved of his column.

    Kyle (36559f)

  63. Very sad to see Mikikoshi hasn;t chimed in with any thoughts on the subject. Where has he been?

    Robert C. J. Parry (a5133c)

  64. Read the Times article on Benghazi today for even more lies. Claiming that the FBI and CIA brought up the movie demonstration.

    Dancrane (c4709f)

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  66. Are you still thinking the president is a “good man”?

    I Callahan (99f863)


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