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  • Levi and the 501s

    Levi and the 501s

    Asking tax collectors to regulate election spending is a terrible idea



    IF GOVERNMENTS ask for feedback on new policies it is usually a prelude to doing what they had in mind anyway. Not so with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)’s consultation on tax rules for social-welfare organisations, which are more interesting than they sound. By the time it closed on February 27th, the exercise had attracted more than 68,000 comments. Some suggested that the IRS was the tool of a dictatorship bent on destroying America’s democracy. Others were less polite.

    At issue was the taxman’s attempt to define what social-welfare organisations (known as “501(c)(4)s” after the line in the tax code that covers them) may do without losing their tax-exempt status. Thousands of organisations that play a big part in public life, from the National Rifle Association to the local green pressure group, fall into this category.

    IRS rules already limit the extent to which 501(c)(4)s can get involved in political campaigns. The new rules are tighter: “political” activity would include any public statement that mentions a candidate near an election, and even private communications if they advocate voting for or against a candidate. The American Civil Liberties Union, another 501(c)(4), thinks this would have the effect of “chilling a vast amount of core political speech about crucial issues of the day”.

    Social-welfare groups first appeared in the tax code in 1913, but their role in campaigns has only attracted attention since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which removed some restrictions on political spending by companies and unions. The special appeal of 501(c)(4)s is that they do not have to disclose who their donors are. In 2008 $70m was spent on fighting elections by groups that did not disclose their donors. In the 2012 election cycle that quadrupled to $311m. This trajectory has continued: the amount spent by groups with anonymous donors in the current election cycle is three times greater than at the same point in 2012, says the Centre for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending.

    In theory these organisations are restricted to spending less than half of their money on campaigning. In practice there are various ways round this rule. Some spend up to their allocation on attack ads and then pass the rest on to another similar group, which does the same, and so on until there is nothing left unspent.
    Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

    Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

  • #2
    I always liked the fit of 501's once the button fly is mastered. Never a fear of getting the tallywhacker stuck in the zipper.
    If it pays, it stays

    Comment


    • #3
      I find it unsurprising that for almost 100 years this structure barely hit the news. In the 1960s the activities of many groups became much more political but nobody cared until conservatives adopted the tactics historically used by NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the NAACP.

      Go figure.
      "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
      -John Locke

      "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
      -Newman

      Comment


      • #4
        What I find unsurprising is political groups getting upset that the IRS thinks they may be political.
        Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

        Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

        Comment


        • #5
          When discussing events in Ukraine with friends recently, it was remarked how unbelievably corrupt these countries are compared to the West.

          My comment was they should just call it "political contributions" and it will magically no longer be corruption.
          Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

          Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
            When discussing events in Ukraine with friends recently, it was remarked how unbelievably corrupt these countries are compared to the West.

            My comment was they should just call it "political contributions" and it will magically no longer be corruption.
            Pitty that you and Michelle (not the one on this board with the single "l") are so ashamed to be an American.
            If it pays, it stays

            Comment


            • #7
              Most money spent by such groups helps Republican candidates....
              Proving once again that the staff at The Economist are stark-raving idiots and/or bald-faced liars. Liberal groups spend FAR more money this way than conservative groups do.



              ...[W]hich perhaps explains why Democratic politicians have denounced the practice so fiercely.
              No, Democrats have denounced 501(c)4s because they're fundamentally dishonest and live completely by double-standards.


              The editors clearly are trying their very best to avoid the actual issue of the IRS and 501(c)s. That's too uncomfortable to talk about because it exposes their own hypocrisy.


              The Economist is so laughably Leftist and dishonest, they probably should change their name to Mother Jones. What a farce.
              It's been ten years since that lonely day I left you
              In the morning rain, smoking gun in hand
              Ten lonely years but how my heart, it still remembers
              Pray for me, momma, I'm a gypsy now

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Adam View Post
                Proving once again that the staff at The Economist are stark-raving idiots and/or bald-faced liars. Liberal groups spend FAR more money this way than conservative groups do.



                No, Democrats have denounced 501(c)4s because they're fundamentally dishonest and live completely by double-standards.


                The editors clearly are trying their very best to avoid the actual issue of the IRS and 501(c)s. That's too uncomfortable to talk about because it exposes their own hypocrisy.


                The Economist is so laughably Leftist and dishonest, they probably should change their name to Mother Jones. What a farce.
                Your chart has nothing to do with 501(c)4 spending. That chart shows direct, reportable contributions.

                When it comes to 501(c)4 spending, The Economist is absolutely right.

                Conservative Groups Granted Exemption Vastly Outspent Liberal Ones

                Conservative nonprofits that received tax-exempt status since the beginning of 2010 and also filed election spending reports with the Federal Election Commission overwhelmed liberal groups in terms of money spent on politics, an analysis of Internal Revenue Service and FEC records shows.

                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.

                By far the largest driver of the disparity was American Action Network, whose $30.6 million in spending reported to the FEC in 2010 and 2012 mades up 94 percent of the conservative total. However, even without American Action Network, spending by conservative groups approved after 2010 was nearly quadruple that of liberal groups receiving exempt status in the same period.
                Last edited by Norm dePlume; Friday, March 7, 2014, 1:37 PM.
                Enjoy.

                Comment


                • #9
                  1989?
                  Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

                  Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Norm dePlume View Post
                    Your chart has nothing to do with 501(c)4 spending.
                    I didn't even catch that bit of Adam dishonesty. I don't know about the others but AFSCME is a 501(c)5 organization.
                    Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

                    Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
                      What I find unsurprising is political groups getting upset that the IRS thinks they may be political.
                      Biased enforcement has always been the case. You conveniently ignore that.
                      "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
                      -John Locke

                      "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
                      -Newman

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
                        1989?
                        I don't know why it goes back to 1989. I only know it comes from OpenSecrets, and it's been making the rounds among conservatives who universally ignore the accompanying disclaimer:

                        This list includes the organizations that have historically qualified as "heavy hitters" — groups that lobby and spend big, with large sums sent to candidates, parties and leadership PACs. Individuals and organizations have been able to make extremely large donations to outside spending groups in the last few years. While contributions to outside groups like super PACs do not factor into an organization's designation as a "heavy hitter" (a listing of about 150 groups), those numbers are included for the roster below.

                        For example, this list does not include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. He and his wife Miriam donated nearly $93 million in 2012 alone to conservative super PACs — enough to put him at No. 2 on this list. Similarly, the list excludes former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has donated more than $19 million in the past two years, largely to groups that support gun control. Neither Adelson nor Bloomberg — or the organizations they report as their employers — qualifies as a "heavy hitter" under our current definition. It's also important to note that we aren't including donations to politically active dark money groups, like Americans for Prosperity, a group linked to the Koch brothers, or the liberal group Patriot Majority — because these groups hide their donors; see a list of top donors that we've been able to identify to such groups. We are working to revise this list to take into account the new realities of campaign finance created by the Citizens United decision, but as it currently stands, there are significant omissions.
                        Enjoy.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Norm dePlume View Post
                          Your chart has nothing to do with 501(c)4 spending. That chart shows direct, reportable contributions.

                          When it comes to 501(c)4 spending, The Economist is absolutely right.
                          So the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood 501(c)4 spending wasn't a problem for decades, but now it's a problem because since 2010 conservative groups spend more?

                          Amazing.
                          "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
                          -John Locke

                          "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
                          -Newman

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Norm dePlume View Post
                            Your chart has nothing to do with 501(c)4 spending. That chart shows direct, reportable contributions.

                            When it comes to 501(c)4 spending, The Economist is absolutely right.
                            These people are apparently just ignoring moveon.org, who spent $21M in the first three quarters of 2010, thus single-handedly out-spending AAN. Moven.org is a 501(c)4.
                            It's been ten years since that lonely day I left you
                            In the morning rain, smoking gun in hand
                            Ten lonely years but how my heart, it still remembers
                            Pray for me, momma, I'm a gypsy now

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Adam View Post
                              These people are apparently just ignoring moveon.org, who spent $21M in the first three quarters of 2010, thus single-handedly out-spending AAN. Moven.org is a 501(c)4.
                              No. MoveOn.org Civic Action is. Unless I am reading your link wrong.
                              Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

                              Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

                              Comment

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