With much of Washington D.C. still mired in hearings and investigations over the IRS targeting scandal, the agency is apparently still cracking down on conservative organizations. The IRS recently revoked the tax-exempt status of a Virginia-based conservative group because of statements made against Democrats by the group's president, according to a report in USA Today. At issue were columns written by the president of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty and linked on the group's website, in which he was critical of John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. The IRS report on the Patrick Henry Center cited "repeated statements supporting or opposing various candidates by expressing its opinion of the respective candidate's character and qualifications."
KTRH political insider Chris Begala says this case is tricky, because there are legitimate rules regarding tax-exempt groups. "(The IRS) does have a little leeway, because 501(c)3 groups should not be actively engaging in politics, other than from an educational standpoint," he tells KTRH. The tax-exempt rules ban groups from engaging in direct political involvement, which can be a gray area for enforcement. "Who's to define direct, active involvement?" asks Begala. "Vote for Joe Smith or vote against Joe Smith, that would be active direct involvement." Whether the rules violations are legitimate or not, the IRS has lost its credibility as an objective enforcer because of the targeting scandal. "The IRS hardly has clean hands in relation to conservative political groups," says Begala.
New IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who took over the agency months ago in the wake of the targeting scandal, says they are now working to rewrite the political guidelines with regard to tax-exempt groups, in order to clear up the confusion. But it likely won't be enough to quell the suspicion surrounding the agency due to the targeting of conservatives. "To say that this administration with Eric Holder up there as the attorney general has clean hands, and is acting without any political malice, would be a joke," says Begala.