Target: Steven Miller, IRS Acting Commissioner
Goal: Properly regulate organizations that promote “social welfare”.
Social welfare groups should be acting in the general interest of the public and not be engaged in electioneering. Carl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity both have such privileges under current tax law. They pay no taxes on the donations they receive, and the donors are anonymous. The IRS has an obligation to carefully review all applications for 501 (c)(4) status and make sure that organizations already under this designation are following the rules.
Recently, a scandal of the IRS improperly targeting conservative groups that were applying for 501 (c)(4) status emerged, and Steven Miller, the acting commissioner, resigned. The underlying problem lies in the fact that since the Citizens United case, applications for this status have skyrocketed. At the same time, IRS budget per capita has gone down 20 percent from 2002, according to an analysis by tax expert David Cay Johnston. This summer, the agency is also going to shut down for five days because of the so-called sequester.
Perhaps it was due to budget cuts that the employees at the IRS Cincinnati office came up with a shortcut to screen applications for tax-exempt status. Of course, it is wrong to target groups that use certain keywords to explain their mission, but because of budget cuts that the IRS has endured, its employees had to deal with an overwhelming demand for the status of a social welfare organization.
Some groups flat out do not deserve 501 (c)(4) status. Crossroads GPS, Karl Rove’s campaigning group, actively participated in both 2010 and 2012 elections. It supported candidates for office all over the country, which contradicts the rules that social welfare organizations have to follow. According to data from OpenSecrets.org, in 2012 elections 152 social welfare organizations spent $256,263,118. Of that money, Crossroads GPS had $70,968,744 in independent expenditures, and spent $213,196 on electioneering communications. Americans for Prosperity, another conservative entity, in 2012 had $33,542,051 in independent expenditures and spent $2,810,877 for electioneering communications.
The tax code specifies that social welfare organizations can engage in politics, as long as it is not the organization’s primary focus. Now that the election is over, there are no more ads on TV from either Americans for Prosperity or Crossroads GPS. That means that their sole purpose is to engage in political campaigns, not promote social welfare. These groups should not have tax-exempt status and conceal their donors and the amounts they donate.
Please sign this petition if you agree that the IRS should carefully process each application for 501 (c)(4) status and reevaluate existing groups with due diligence.
Dear Mr. Miller,
Since the Supreme Court decided on the Citizens United case, applications for social welfare organizations, or 501 (c)(4)s have overwhelmed the IRS. The agency has power and responsibility to regulate these entities. Groups like Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity both hold such designations. They are allowed to keep information about their donors and the amounts they donate in secret.
Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity and many other organizations clearly masquerade under the social welfare status. They spent enormous amounts of money during the 2012 elections, where the groups advocated for one candidate or issued attack ads against other candidates. According to OpenSecrets.org, Crossroads spent over $71,000,000 in 2012, and Americans for Prosperity spent over $37,000,000. After the election, all the advertisements from Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity have disappeared from television sets. Overall, 152 social welfare organizations spent $256,263,118 during the last election. This practice is doing great damage to the concept of a social welfare group and to the election process. The IRS has the means to curb the abuse of the 501 (c)(4) status.
Please diligently review social welfare organizations that may be engaging in electioneering. Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity should be stripped of their social welfare status. Let them pay taxes on donations and disclose their donors. Democracy of our country depends on it.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: chicagopublicmedia via Flickr