“Tax-Exempt Hatred”: The IRS Should Strictly Police Hate Groups Seeking Non-Profit Tax-Exempt Status
A few weeks ago, Forbes magazine published an intriguing column by Peter J. Reilly that asked an important question: If the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Family Research Council a hate group, should the IRS take action?
In the column, Reilly criticizes a paper by University of Georgia Professor Alex Reed. Reed argues that the IRS must do a better job enforcing its procedure 86-43, which is the standard it uses to determine if a tax exempt organization is advocating an educational point of view or one that produces materials that are factually unsupported, distorted or make substantial use of inflammatory and denigrating language. If it organization does the latter, the procedure indicates that it does not qualify for tax-exempt status.
Reed writes that the IRS’ poor oversight of 86-43 has allowed many out-of-compliance organizations to keep their preferential tax benefits, particularly hate groups. Hate groups advocate hostility toward certain groups of people because of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. He references The Family Research Council, which has a long history of publishing offensive propaganda about the LGBT community.
Other tax-exempt organizations not mentioned by Reed, but with similar reputations include: the anti-LGBT Family Watch International, whose research archive contains numerous offensive, junk science studies on gays and lesbians, and the xenophobic Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has volumes of distortions broadly denigrating immigrants.
Reilly argues that strict enforcement of 86-43 wouldn’t work because “if somebody expresses a view that you find threatening to your world view, you are likely to conclude that they hate you.” In other words, it would be impossible for any IRS employees to enforce 86-43, because any threat to their beliefs would trump their professional obligations. He ignores the possibility that the IRS could punish employees for targeting organizations based on their personal or political beliefs, an obvious, much needed reform given the IRS’s political targeting of tea party organizations earlier this year.
Both Reilly and Reed would do better not framing their arguments around what organizations the Southern Poverty Law Center deems hate groups. In fact, the hate group term doesn’t even need to be involved. Any organization whose educational materials don’t conform to the procedure should be scrutinized. The IRS must ground its enforcement on its rules, not the Southern Poverty Law Center’s position.
Enforcement has nothing to do with limiting an organization’s free speech. The Family Research Council, Family Watch International, Federation for Immigration Reform or any other group masquerading as educational institutions don’t need tax-exempt status to exercise their civil liberties. One is not necessary to the other.
Enforcement has to do with the fair application of rules designed to maintain the integrity of the tax-exempt system. Preferential tax treatment is, for all intents and purposes, a government subsidy administered through the tax system. If a tax-exempt organization is flouting the standards by which its status is awarded, it shouldn’t expect the government to continue to assist it in the coordination of its financial activities. The government is not obligated to make it easier for these organizations to threaten people’s basic rights and freedoms. In fact, the government has a moral, legal and ethical obligation to do the opposite.
By: Jamie Chandler, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, November 19, 2013
Earlier this year, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus accepted the fact that his party’s social conservatism had alienated many young voters, women, and moderates. The party would still adhere to its platform, Priebus said in March, “but it doesn’t mean that we divide and subtract people from our party…. I don’t believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics.”
At the time, this seemed quite sensible. Understanding the Republican Party’s unpopularity is a multi-faceted dynamic, but its economic failures and extremist tactics are only part of the larger problem. The GOP’s support for a far-right culture-war agenda — anti-contraception, anti-gay, anti-reproductive rights, anti-Planned Parenthood — has taken a toll, too.
This support has manifested itself in Republicans’ legislative priorities — the House GOP has been preoccupied this year with votes on abortion and birth control — but it’s not limited to Capitol Hill.
Marriage, abortion and religious liberty are the top cultural topics to be addressed at this weekend’s Values Voter Summit.
Conservative political issues will be a major part of the presentations, but the social-cultural issues “are what define us as an organization,” said retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin of the Family Research Council (FRC), a main sponsor of the annual conference, which is now in its eighth year.
Right Wing Watch highlighted some of the fringe extremists who’ll play prominent roles at the right-wing conference, but the key takeaway is simple: Republican leaders will join these fringe extremists as if they’re mainstream.
Looking over the list of confirmed speakers at the Values Voter Summit, we see several sitting Republican U.S. senators (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Tim Scott, and Marco Rubio), and many more sitting Republican U.S. House members (Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and Scott Turner of Texas).
The list of confirmed speakers also includes House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who was on his party’s national presidential ticket less than a year ago.
And why are these guests important? Because it’s a reminder that no matter how much damage the Republican Party’s culture war does to the GOP’s reputation, they just can’t help themselves. The religious right movement may not be the powerhouse it once was — remember when the Christian Coalition was a major force in American politics? — but it still is a significant part of the GOP base, even if it helps drive mainstream voters away.
Indeed, for Republicans eyeing national office, this has become something of a rite of passage — if you want to compete for the GOP’s presidential nomination, you’ll have to suck up to the party’s theocratic wing.
A group of longtime Christian conservative activists are holding a private meeting Thursday in Washington to hear informal presentations from two of the most talked-about potential Republican presidential candidates: Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
The gathering is being held in conjunction with the Family Research Council’s Values Voters conference, an annual gathering of Christian conservatives in Washington, but it is not an official part of that event. Rather, it is being staged by a loosely-organized group of Republican leaders that call themselves “Conservatives of Faith.”
The hosts include Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, the former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, the conservative talk show host Janet Parshall and Richard Viguerie, the direct mail pioneer, along with a handful of others from the conservative movement. [Robert Fischer, a South Dakota-based conservative organizer] is the group’s chief organizer.
Meet the new Republican Party. When it comes to social conservatism, it’s entirely indistinguishable from the old Republican Party.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 11, 2013
In the wake of the party’s election setbacks last year, the Republican National Committee has focused on outreach to a variety of constituencies that have been turning towards Democrats: Latinos, African Americans, younger voters, women, etc.
But it’s against this backdrop that we also see the RNC boosting its outreach efforts to a group of voters that ostensibly represents the party’s existing base.
The Republican National Committee has brought on a director of evangelical outreach to massage the party’s complicated relationship with religious conservatives, GOP sources told CNN on Saturday.
The party organization has hired Chad Connelly, a consultant and motivational speaker who, until this weekend, was the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.
Connelly resigned from that job Saturday and informed members of the state party’s executive committee that he will be taking a job at the RNC…. Connelly, a Baptist, has told multiple South Carolina Republicans that he will be steering the national party’s outreach to faith-based groups.
There are two broad questions to consider. The first is, who’s Chad Connelly? The Republican is far better known for his work leading the South Carolina GOP than engaging in faith-based activism. Upon taking over the state party two years ago, Connelly vowed to become President Obama’s “worst nightmare,” and then largely faded from the national scene.
That said, Connelly wrote an 80-page book in 2002, called “Freedom Tide,” which made a series of ridiculous claims about the United States being founded as a “Christian nation.” The book was panned for its inaccuracies and wasn’t exactly a best-seller
But the other question is, why in the world would the Republican National Committee have to focus on evangelical outreach right now?
The answer, I suspect, has something to do with the fact that the religious right movement isn’t nearly as pleased with its RNC allies as one might assume. As we discussed in April, many of the movement’s most prominent leaders and activists publicly threatened to abandon the Republican Party altogether unless it continues to push — enthusiastically — a far-right culture war agenda.
The threats coincided with a call from Tony Perkins, president of the right-wing Family Research Council, that social conservatives stop contributing to the RNC until the party starts “defending core principles.”
That might help explain why the RNC hired Connelly, but as we talked about at the time, it’s not at all clear what more the religious right community seriously expects of the party.
After all, Republican policymakers are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.
And social conservatives are outraged that Republicans haven’t pushed the culture war enough? Why, because the RNC hasn’t officially declared its support for a theocracy yet?
Presumably, it’s now up to Connelly to help make this clearer to the party’s evangelical base.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 10, 2013
If the pending legislation intended to prevent gun violence is as awful as critics claim, they should, in theory, have a fairly easy task ahead. After all, they simply have to point to the legislation’s many flaws, and watch it crumble under the weight of its own futility, right?
But that’s always been the funny thing about demagoguery — it’s what desperate people rely on when they can’t win a debate on the merits. If accurate talking points are ineffective, just make stuff up, scare the bejesus out of people, and hope fear triumphs in the end.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for example, published this tweet over the weekend, warning of a “national gun registry.” As a factual matter, is there a “national gun registry”? No. Has anyone proposed a “national gun registry”? No. Would the pending legislation lead to a “national gun registry”? No.
Does the bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks explicitly rule out the possibility of a “national gun registry”? Yes.
But it doesn’t matter. Either Ted Cruz has created a fantasy world in which legislative details are the opposite of reality, or Ted Cruz assumes his far-right allies are easily fooled into believing nonsense. Either way, by counting on paranoia to rule the day, the Texas Republican — a U.S. senator, not some random media personality — has no qualms about promoting a ridiculous message like this.
Similarly, in recent days, Red State blogger and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson argued that “believing in a resurrected Jesus” will make you ineligible for gun ownership in five years under the bipartisan background-check compromise. Why does Erickson believe such silliness, and feel the need to share this nonsense with others? I haven’t the foggiest idea.
I do know, however, that it’s spreading — as we talked about over the weekend, Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council also argued that Christians may be prevented from buying firearms.
None of this relates to our version of reality in any way, but for the right, real-world arguments are apparently unpersuasive, creating a demand for garbage.
The politics of paranoia are apparently all conservatives have left.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 15, 2013
Social conservatives are threatening to revolt against the the Republican Party, in the latest sign that the Republican National Committee’s “Growth & Opportunity Project” has little to no chance of success.
The latest Republican to strike a blow against the RNC’s rebranding plan is Tony Perkins, president of anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council. When it’s not pushing absurd conspiracy theories about ACORN and Obamacare, the FRC keeps busy by using pseudo-science to link homosexuality and pedophilia, and endorsing Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” bill, among other fringe right-wing activities. So naturally, Perkins isn’t thrilled with the RNC’s directive that “When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and indeed be inclusive and welcoming.”
Perkins has responded to the GOP reboot by directing his supporters to cut off their financial support for the party.
“Until the RNC and the other national Republican organizations grow a backbone and start defending core principles, don’t send them a dime of your hard-earned money,” Perkins wrote in an email to supporters Thursday night. “If you want to invest in the political process, and I encourage you to do so, give directly to candidates who reflect your values and organizations you trust — like FRC Action.”
Perkins went on to theorize that extreme right-wing social policies are not the GOP’s problem, but in fact the solution.
“Instead of trying to appease millennials, Republicans should try educating them on why marriage matters,” Perkins wrote. “There’s an entire group of ‘Countercultural Warriors’ full of compelling young leaders who are all going to the mat to protect marriage.”
Perkins’ boycott call comes just days after a group of 13 right-wing leaders (including Perkins) signed a letter warning the RNC that social conservatives will break away from the GOP if the party fails to reaffirm its 2012 platform, which calls for bans on gay marriage and abortion rights.
“We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support,” the letter warns.
Striking a similar note as Perkins, the signatories speculate that “it is the faith-based community which offers Republicans their best hope of expanding their support” among African-Americans, young voters, and other voter groups that have become reliable Democratic bases.
Perkins and his colleagues on the religious right pose a major problem for Reince Priebus and the Republican Party. Social conservatives still make up the majority of the party’s voter base, a fact that is not going to change anytime soon. But these voters are increasingly out of step with the rest of the country on just about every social issue. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds, for example, that 73 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents support legalizing same-sex marriage — up 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively, from 2009. Only 27 percent of Republicans support marriage equality, however, up just 5 percent from four years ago.
There aren’t enough “Countercultural Warriors” in the world to make up for that kind of gap — nor is there any evidence that the GOP’s target groups would even be amenable to being lectured by the party’s right wing.
What’s worse for Priebus is that it’s not entirely clear what more the Republican Party can do to appease social conservatives. As Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen points out:
Why, exactly, do social conservatives feel so aggrieved? On a purely superficial level, the party does not want to be perceived as right-wing culture warriors because Priebus and Co. realize that this further alienates younger, more tolerant voters. But below the surface, Republicans, especially at the state level, are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.
Indeed, Priebus himself recently penned an op-ed for a right-wing blog accusing Democrats of supporting infanticide by refusing to defund Planned Parenthood. If that type of rhetoric isn’t extreme enough to appease Perkins and his cohorts, then it’s unclear what the GOP’s next step could be.
So the RNC is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It can’t afford to lose the support of its base, but the longer the likes of Perkins and Rick Santorum maintain control of the party’s public message, the harder it will be for Republicans to win national elections.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 12, 2013