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posted by mattie_p on Tuesday June 17 2014, @11:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the watching-the-watchers dept.

Per ArsTechnica, Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX) has sent a formal letter to the National Security Agency asking it to hand over "all its metadata" on the e-mail accounts of a former division director at the Internal Revenue Service. "Your prompt cooperation in this matter will be greatly appreciated and will help establish how IRS and other personnel violated rights protected by the First Amendment," Stockman wrote on Friday. The request came hours after the IRS told a congressional committee that it had "lost" all of the former IRS Exempt Organizations division director's e-mails between January 2009 and April 2011.

The IRS blames a "computer glitch" for erasing the emails which could have implicated Agency employees in illegal activity. "The metadata will establish who Lerner contacted and when, which helps investigators determine the extent of illegal activity by the IRS," says Stockman.

Hugh Pickens also notes that this is a case where one government agency accused of misconduct is asked to "assist" another government agency accused of misconduct.

 
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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Nygmus on Wednesday June 18 2014, @03:45PM

    by Nygmus (3310) on Wednesday June 18 2014, @03:45PM (#56993)

    The groups in question were applying for 501(c)(4) status, or Social Welfare Organization status.

    Social Welfare organizations are *not* supposed to be purely political; there is a set limit on how much of their activity can be devoted to political purposes. However, many organizations (primarily, of late, conservative/Tea Party-affiliated organizations) have been seeking this designation and doing their best to keep it, thanks to the highly-questionable designation that *lobbying* could be considered a social welfare activity for purposes of exemption. They're also allowed to make political contributions as long as that's not their "primary activity."

    What is the point? It's not tax exemption, not at all.

    501(c)(4)s don't have to disclose their donors.

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Max Hyre on Wednesday June 18 2014, @04:59PM

    by Max Hyre (3427) <reversethis-{moc.oohay} {ta} {eryhxam}> on Wednesday June 18 2014, @04:59PM (#57024)
    [N.B.: 501(c)(4) organizations are tax-exempt.]

    The Law

    Take a look at the IRS's own docs [irs.gov] on the subject, specifically the sections titled The Statute and Social Welfare Organizations > Introduction

    The law says 501(c)(4) organizations are to be operated ``exclusively for the promotion of social welfare'' (civic leagues or organizations) or ``are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes'' (local associations of employees).

    Neither is allowed to engage in political activities, if you believe ``exclusive'' means ``nothing but''.

    Thus the law requires the IRS to investigate 501(c)(4) applicants for political activity, and if it finds any, to reject the application. Similarly, if an extant 501(c)(4) is found to be engaged in politics, its exemption must be revoked.

    The Regulation

    However, we find on the next page:

    Reg. 1. 501(c)(4)-1(a)(2)(i) provides that:

    [A]n organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare if it is primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community.

    WTF? `Exclusively` means `primarily`?

    And there's the scandal: the IRS is not following the law, and 501(c)(4) organizations shouldn't be engaging in any politics. Bang! PACs are dead.

    • (Score: 1) by Nygmus on Thursday June 19 2014, @05:27PM

      by Nygmus (3310) on Thursday June 19 2014, @05:27PM (#57510)

      Current interpretation allows lobbying for social issues to be considered as "social welfare." I think it's bullshit, but it's legal bullshit. They're allowed to engage in political activity as long as the majority of their activity is "social welfare," but the interpretation of lobbying as "social welfare" causes part of the issue.

      Yes, they are tax exempt, but that's not the reason the status is so hotly contested. Much more important is the ability to screen their donors, because it means that someone can pour money into a 501(c)(4) to support an issue without anyone being able to tell where the cash came from.

  • (Score: 2) by tathra on Wednesday June 18 2014, @05:34PM

    by tathra (3367) on Wednesday June 18 2014, @05:34PM (#57040)

    i dont know much of anything about the specific non-profits, however there's this line on wikipedia:

    The 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) categories are for politically active nonprofit organizations, which have become increasingly important since the 2004 federal elections.
    501(c)(4) — Civic Leagues, Social Welfare Organizations, and Local Associations of Employees

    further down, we have

    An organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare if it is primarily engaged in promoting the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.

    anybody applying for this status absolutely should be under extra scrutiny. and thats exactly what happened. there was no "targeting" because it was not only conservative groups that got that extra scrutiny, it was everyone, which is as it should be.