The Real IRS Scandal: Urgent Need for Campaign Finance and Tax Code Reform

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Posted May 22, 2013

Interview with Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon.com political reporter, conducted by Scott Harris

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In recent weeks, the Obama administration has been battered by criticism over a trifecta of controversies – or scandals, depending on your political perspective. They include: questions about White House talking points in the aftermath of 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans; the Justice Department’s covert collection of Associated Press reporter’s phone records in the course of investigating a government leak related to a foiled terrorist plot, and the Treasury Department’s admission that staffers at the Internal Revenue Service office in Cincinnati, Ohio had selected Tea Party and conservative groups for extra scrutiny of their 501(c)(4) non-profit status applications.

A recent Treasury Department inspector general’s investigation into the IRS matter concluded that political bias did not play a role in the employee’s use of “inappropriate criteria" as they attempted to identify groups that did not comply with 501(c)(4) requirements that such organizations be primarily engaged in social welfare issues and not electoral politics. Despite the results of the IRS probe, which found the White House had no involvement in directing the IRS in handling nonprofit applications, Republican politicians and Tea Party activists charge that the White House was complicit in targeting conservative groups, frequently comparing the episode to the Nixon-era Watergate scandal.

One of the contributing factors in the IRS controversy revolves around the lack of clarity in tax regulations governing requirements to be awarded 501(c)(4) status, compounded by the flood of groups, many on the right, that have made applications since the Supreme Court Citizens United decision that opened the flood gates of unlimited and unaccountable money in U.S. election campaigns. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon.com's political reporter, who examines the factual context of the IRS controversy and the need for tax code and campaign finance reform.

Seitz-Wald’s recent articles on the IRS controversy are at Salon.com.

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