There is a legitimate reason to examine 501 (c) 4 groups: they are officially just social welfare groups, arguing for better tomorrow tomorrow or whatever. They’re not supposed to spend money on campaigns for presidential candidates. Obviously, this should be done on a strictly nonpartisan basis, and the Cincinnati office (which seems to have been relieved of its duties recently) was way out of line in focusing mainly on the right and Tea Party groups. I’m with Rand Paul in wanting heads to roll once the full facts are available.
But notice nonetheless the bigger picture. 2012 was a year in which the airwaves were flooded by ads paid for by these nebulous groups seeking tax exemption. The right swamped the left with these groups. From ProPublica this morning, in a story which reveals allegedly illegal leaking of some of the data from Cincinnati:
One of the applications the IRS released to ProPublica was from Crossroads GPS, the largest social-welfare nonprofit involved in the 2012 election. The group, started in part by GOP consultant Karl Rove, promised the IRS that any effort to influence elections would be “limited.” The group spent more than $70 million from anonymous donors in 2012.
So the biggest social welfare nonprofit was clearly in violation of the law. And because of the IRS’s stupid behavior, that very relevant fact is obscured.