Anthony Brindisi: The Attack of the Nonprofit

Anthony Brindisi (Democrat) pictured next to Claudia Tenney (Republican). Claudia Tenney lost in 2018. Now she wants her seat back and she has a big war chest.

Each night when I switch over from cable TV to local TV I am assaulted again and again by an ad against a Democratic candidate from a neighboring district. This ad has a suburban mom with long blonde hair admonishing Anthony Brindisi for not accomplishing anything in Congress. Obviously this woman is lying because almost 400 bills have been passed in the House of Representatives and Anthony Brindisi has voted his little heart out, but all of these bills are sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk, or in his closet, or in his circular file. This means that the reason Mr. Brindisi has not accomplished anything is because the Republicans won’t let him. Then Mrs. Suburban American throws in that fine old chestnut admonishing Brindisi to “secure the border.” How 2016…OK, you say all is fair in love and politics but I say “you get what you pay for.”

This ad is sponsored by a group with lots of money, obviously, because the ad plays over and over again, sometimes ten times a night. Yet the ad time was purchased by American Action Network, a nonprofit with a 501c4 tax exempt status (religious). These groups only get to keep this status if they don’t put their thumb on the political scales in an election. These groups are not being held to the rules of nonprofit status because the Republicans fought a battle of intimidation with the IRS in which they accused the IRS of being partisan. Surprisingly the IRS backed off and the Republicans won, so now religious groups break the rules of nonprofits with impunity. I’m thinking that poor Anthony Brindisi doesn’t stand a chance of being reelected in 2020.

https://www.syracuse.com/news/2020/01/anthony-brindisi-targeted-by-300k-ad-campaign-during-trump-impeachment-trial.html

Once again Republicans make a disingenuous argument. Nonprofits are allowed to educate so they pretend that their very partisan ads are intended to educate. This is what happens to language these days. Words are slippery. They mean different things to different people. Nonsense, but dangerous nonsense.

 

Republican Grievances and 501c Lies

We have learned by listening to the Impeachment mark-up hearings currently being held to pin down the Articles of Impeachment that the Republicans have endless grievances against the terrible Democrats. The Dems have treated Republicans abominably according to the Republicans. Republican testimony at the hearings offers perfect examples of the ways the Republicans like to make our brains hurt. We see the ways they twist the facts. They show us the ways they gaslight (make us think we are the crazy ones).

The Republicans never forget any Democratic “sins”. When the Republicans speak about Trump he sounds so innocent, and so victimized. Democrats are trying to overturn the 2016 election say the Republicans and the Dems want to pretend it turned out differently. But it is actually Trump who cheated in 2016, and Trump who tried to cheat again in 2020, both times asking for interference by a foreign country in an American election. And it is Trump, who says he knows how to build a wall, who has built an impenetrable wall around his administration so that no documents are accessible and no humans are allowed to speak. He has William Barr as the 4-eyed cyclops guarding his domain. And Trump certainly knows how to build a metaphorical wall, although he is having a bit more difficulty building the actual wall.

One of the most ridiculous grievances the Republicans have expressed in these hearings is the 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) IRS grievance they bring up over and over, which is so esoteric that it never gets discussed. The IRS felt that Republicans were abusing these two tax exempt categories. The c3 category is the one used by religious organizations. They are tax exempt as long as they do not engage in partisan politics. The c4 category allows social welfare groups to be tax exempt as long as they do not engage in partisan politics.

When the IRS started to audit lots of Republican c3 groups and c4 groups, the Republican Party threatened the IRS, something most of us never imagined was possible or even a good idea, and the Republicans even tossed around the idea of getting rid of the IRS. The IRS stated that the 501 c3’s and c4’s that claimed to be religious organizations or social welfare organizations were actually working to elect Republicans and that they should not be tax exempt. The IRS backed down when Republicans accused them of being partisan, and now the Republicans are pretending to lick a wound that was never actually sustained.

Those Republican groups were violating their c3 and c4 status. There were not equal numbers of Democratic groups doing the same thing. The Republicans got away with this tax cheat through intimidation and by calling the IRS partisan, a label apparently intolerable to the IRS. The Republican Party, currently a totally partisan operation, loves to charge everyone else with partisanship. Republicans are not victims. They are liars and they are breaking our tax laws.

Here are the names of some organizations with c3 and c4 tax exemptions that have been printing pamphlets to hand out in church bulletins, suggesting sermon messages to preachers in megachurches, conducting get-out the-Republican-vote studies, collecting information that shows the intimate data on every voter in America, especially Republicans, swing state voters, and minority voters, and sharing that data with state and federal election campaigns, and many more partisan political election activities.

These organizations have learned almost everything there is to know about voters in America and they have incestuous entanglements with the Republican Party and big donors on the right. They are deeply engaged in politics and they have turned voting into a science which is ironic for a group that hates science. These groups, especially the religious groups, own an enormous media network, mostly radio stations and they do conduct religious services for their listeners; but they also discuss and even preach about politics to a huge swath of America. They have hitched their wagon to the Republican political train and their services are tax free. Victims – I think not. They should let this particular grievance claim go. This is just one lie, but it is the tip of a very big iceberg of false claims of grievous wounds supposedly suffered by the Republican Party at the hands of the Democrats.

An incomplete list of groups follows (there are more) and you can check their tax status online:  Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Susan B. Anthony List, Students for Life of America, Live Action, Faith and Freedom Coalition, United in Purpose, National Religious Broadcasters, Alliance Defending Freedom, Leadership Institute, Federalist Society, American Center for Law and Justice, Heritage Foundation, Tea Party Patriots, State Policy Network, National Rifle Association, i360 (data platform launched with Koch brothers funding), Themis Trust (i360’s original parent company), Data Trust (Republican National Committee database), Barna Group (evangelical polling firm)

The source of this data is the book Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson, Bloomsbury Publishing, October 29, 2019, a book which should give you nightmares if you read it.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – TechSoup

 

Who’s Going to Jail?

Republicans are ramping up their attacks on Obama before the
2014 elections. After listening to Bill O’Reilly on Thursday evening, it seems
they are painting him as some kind of sinister cross between Mr. Magoo and
Tupac, a sort of clueless gangster. If he did the things they are saying he did then he is kind of diabolical.
If he didn’t do them then either he does not have his fingers on the pulse of
his administration or the government is just too darn big. I absolutely hope
that Obama’s rather confused accusers are not right because right now the right
is just too far to the right for me.
 

 

If anyone should go to jail for the IRS “scandal”, it should
be a Republican.  Pick one, almost any
one and you will be safe in assigning guilt. The IRS conducts audits of not
just groups, but categories of tax documents. Yes, it looks like they did a search
with search terms that sorted 501 C-4’s with certain key words in the name box
and that those key words seemed to target Conservative groups. Yes we do have
to watch out for this type of thing because it could undermine freedom through
the use of intimidation.

But everyone knows that 501 C-4’s were abused by the GOP in
the last election. We knew it even as it was happening, but had no real
recourse. We knew by the money flying into the GOP campaign and by the names of
the groups who sponsored the flood of awful ads. Republicans may not have stepped
over the letter of the tax laws, but they certainly stomped all over the spirit
of the tax laws. They knew that they were using these organizations to finance
the 2012 election, but they had their own deniability rationales perfected and
they knew it would be almost impossible to prosecute them or turn down their
tax exempt status because they apparently walked the line just about perfectly. The GOP
seems to really love and rely on those razor-edge percentages they are always
throwing around. In this case the percentage is 49%.

Accusing your enemy of a scary-sounding act of treason is a
great tactic to distract attention from your own wrong-doing. Ouch. How can
anyone question your righteousness in this matter? The IRS was looking for
crooks and got a scandal. Well played. However, it rankles that the party that
is trying to curtail our civil rights has taken refuge in a tax code change
that was designed to protect civil rights. In 1959 when they changed 501 C-4’s
from exclusively social welfare organizations to primarily social welfare
organizations to help the NAACP raise needed funds and fight discrimination,
they never imagined that it would come back to bite freedom in the butt in
2012.

Get rid of this loophole. Change the wording of the tax code
regarding 501 C-4’s back to the original language (as soon as you can get
enough votes to do this) and stop this witch hunt before we ferret out all
those Republicans whose math is not so good and who overstepped that 49% level.
We should definitely be investigating 501 C-4’s, but we need to investigate all
of them, and be really careful about what key words are used in future
searches.
 
 

Here’s a link to an article called Conservative Groups Granted Exemption Vastly Outspent Liberal Ones

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/05/conservative-groups-granted-exemption-vastly-outspent-liberal.html

 This chart is from that article.

Viewpoint
Group
Ruling Date
2010
2012
C
Main
Street Advocacy
Jan
2010
$0
$18,303
C
American
Action Network
April
2010
$18,945,602
$11,689,399
C
Alliance
for America’s Future
July
2010
$703,772
0
L
America
Votes
July
2010
$252,876
$46,666
C
Heritage
Action for America
Aug
2010
$0
$236,346
C
American
Values Action
Sept
2010
$0
$14,761
L
Common
Sense Movement
Sept
2010
$0
$29,760
L
Florida
Watch Action
Sept
2010
$0
$30,053
C
Physicians
for a Responsible Government
Oct
2010
$17,532
$0
C
Docs
4 Patients Care
Feb
2011
$24,363
0
C
Ending
Spending
March
2011
$0
$515,000
C
Freedom
Born
Dec
2011
$0
$32,833
C
Faith
& Freedom Coalition Delaware
Jan
2012
$0
$18,354
L
StudentsFirst
Feb
2012
$0
$10,168
L
BlueGreen
Alliance
March
2012
$473,246
0
L
IA
Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund
May
2012
$0
$7,706
C
NFIB
The Voice of Free Enterprise
June
2012
$0
$1,983,385
C
Protect
the Harvest
June
2012
$0
$197,766
L
Progressive
Leadership Alliance/Nevada Action Fund
June
2012
$0
$129,992
L
Progressive
USA
July
2012
$37,071
$0
C
A
Better America Now
March
2013
$0
$65,664

 

This author, Robert McGuire , recommends you use the
following tags to find more information on this topic.

 

Tags: a better america now, advancing wisconsin, america votes, american action network, american commitment, american future fund, bluegreen alliance, center to protect patient rights, citizens united, crossroads gps, dark money, Federal election commission, internal revenue service, karl rove, norm coleman, patriot majority, priorities usa, robert maguire, shadow money trail, tc4 trust, votevets.org

 

Who’s a Patriot?

 
I realize that lots of activities that occur in an election
cycle are suspect as tactics that skirt legality. I also realize that both parties
probably engage in these kinds of behavior. To have the losing party, guilty of
their own departures from polite governance (gerrymandering, manipulating voter
laws), focusing in classic sour grapes fashion on possible “dirty tricks” of
the opposite party is normal for a short period of time after an election, but
we expect the pouting and posturing to die down after a brief period of venting
and we expect proper legislative behavior to ensue.

 
I also admit that the IRS should not use its prodigious powers
of intimidation against any particular group to manipulate political outcomes
or as a way to target a political group. This could be used to move a democracy
towards tyranny. However, if one political party twists the intent of a tax
classification for purposes of moving illegal money into a campaign, since this
is a tax classification, it would fall to the IRS to investigate whether there
was abuse, in this case of 501(C)(4)’s. Since the Democratic Party did not rely
heavily on 501(C)(4) groups, but used a new digital approach it is possible
they did not invite the same level of scrutiny as the same tax forms did on the
Republican side.

 

If the President ordered the IRS to make the process of approval
as a 501(C)(4) group more difficult, then that would be very wrong, of course. Would
it be worse than the strategies employed by the other party? I guess we will
answer that question when and if we have to. In the meantime, this still looks
like a case where IRS employees used certain “search” terms to zero in on the
forms that might be political as opposed to social and therefore ineligible for
501(C)(4) status. And that is what I want to address, those search terms and
who they “belong” to.

 

If you look up patriot online you get this definition:

 

patriot n. 1. A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors. 2. An automated surface-to-air missile system designed for early detection and interception of missiles or aircraft.

 
 

Or you might get this definition, basically the same without
the mention of enemies and detractors:

Definition
of PATRIOT

: one who loves his or her country
and supports its authority and interests

 

If you type “images of American Patriots” into a search line
some inspirational images pop up, but so do a pretty fair number of references
to insurgencies and even some rather disturbing images which some people
apparently see as satire or commentary. Here are a few of the images I found:

 

I always think of myself as an American patriot because I
love my country and I support its authority and interests. I don’t blindly
support everything that is done by every single American, but I am proud that
America has shown the way to respect freedom and equality and that so many
governments around the world have grown to celebrate similar values.

So when a group of Americans usurps the word Patriots and
uses it to set themselves above other Americans and to exclude Americans who
don’t agree with them, I feel that I have to remind them (Conservatives) that,
contrary to contemporary usage and Fox pundits, the right wing does not own the
term Patriot. These people, our neighbors, have a mental weakness that accepts
the brainwashing of someone like Glenn Beck who is using them to foment some
kind of “patriot” revolution, 1776-style, and to scare the bejeezus out of the
rest of us. Nothing has happened in America that necessitates the raising of a
militia to defend us from tyranny. The tyranny being discussed has been created
to drum up ratings in the entertainment arm of the news business. Any one of us,
even the most extreme Liberal, is a proud American Patriot, but perhaps just
not as easily hypnotized by hysterical rhetoric.

Therefore it follows that just because the IRS searched for
the keyword “patriot”, doesn’t mean that they chose that word to zero in on
Conservatives. Maybe the IRS thinks that there can be Liberal Patriots also.
The Tea Party does not own the word Patriot either. They don’t really even own
the words “tea party”.