Forbes: Why Are We Still Arguing Over The Facts Of The IRS Scandal? (In the News)

Forbes: Why Are We Still Arguing Over The Facts Of The IRS Scandal?

By David Herzig

There has been a politically charged debate in academic circles for a while now about events that happened in 2013 regarding IRS investigations into groups purportedly because of the use of the term “Tea Party” in their name.

Paul L. Caron on the TaxProf Blog has been running a mostly continuous post (up to around day 1830) about “The IRS Scandal.” …

[A]n interesting feud between Bradley A. Smith (and others) and David Cay Johnston (and others) percolated over the facts associated with Professor Smith’s Wall Street Journal Op-ed…

In the opinion piece, Professor Smith asserts that, “[t]he easy fix here would be for Congress simply to scrap restrictions on political activity by social-welfare organizations, thereby stripping the IRS of authority to decide which groups are “political committees” and which aren’t.”  The problem with this “easy fix” is that it fundamentally misses a key distinction between 501(c)(4)’s and political committees – 501(c)(4)’s do not disclose donors while PACs are required to.  By collapsing the distinctions, it would appear that Professor Smith would allow PACs to have anonymous donors.  The current system at least provides that the more involvement in politics that an entity has, the more transparency is required.  

Instead of bickering over the facts some 10 year later, it would be much more productive to focus on the problems of adequately funding the IRS as well as related the fixes to the 501(c)(4) political action committee regime.

Ed. Note: Reply from Bradley A. Smith: “No, under plan I proposed in WSJ, pacs could not have anonymous donors, because FECA prohibits that (or state law for state pacs)…

“And that’s basically my point– this should not be an IRS issue at all.”

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.