Conspiracy Corner – The IRS and the Tea Party

Every Thursday, about 8:15am, Matthew talks with Ethan and Zac on 95bFM’s “Breakfast Show” about conspiracy theories.

Imagine being an angry white man who was being persecuted by a government that largely does the work of angry white men? Imagine thinking that said government was really under the control of a Kenyan-born, Muslim Socialist who was out to get you.

Imagine it.

Now, I’m being a bit unkind in starting things in this way; the unfolding Inland Revenue Service (IRS) scandal in the US, where it turned out that the IRS was quietly denying certain nonprofit groups on the right tax exempt status, is a scandal no matter the fact it mostly affected the Tea Party (it also affected some liberal groups as well, but the scandal is with respect to the scale in which nonprofit, Tea Party-aligned groups were denied tax exempt status). Basically, the IRS targeted certain conservative groups (and all Tea Party ones) based upon their names or politics, dating back as far as 2010 and certainly through the presidential campaign of 2012. Groups like “Truth the Vote” found themselves denied tax exempt status because they were engaged in political lobbying, which previously had been an allowed activity with respect to seeking tax exempt status.

It’s not hard to imagine the outrage; here was a Democrat administration making it hard for opponents of said administration to lobby against it. Certainly, if you wanted to talk about some government-lead conspiracy to stifle the opposition, this would be a good place to start vis-a-vis hard evidence.

Not only that, but when one of the central tenets of your protest against the government is based upon questioning the legitimacy of taxation itself, it really does look like the government of the day is out to get you via the institution that rankles.

So, what happened? Was it a conspiracy?

Officially, no. Although this activity by the IRS was known of as far back as 2010, people accepted the assurance of officers high up in the IRS that nothing untoward was going on. Indeed, as some members of the US establishment have pointed out, when the matter was investigated the kind of cases that were used as examples of what the IRS were up to were organisations whose lobbying did not fit the criteria of being charitable because they were expressly political organisations seeking to elect particular candidates rather than advancing some cause for the betterment of society. However, when the scandal broke this year, both the Republicans and the White House were suitably outraged. It looked as if this was just some zealous IRS personnel in Cincinnati who had made some basic mistakes.

Now, this is the perfect response by the conspirators: it was an institutional problem rather than conspiracy. Sure, some liberal groups had been targeted, but the vast majority of the groups were Tea Party-aligned, and that’s suspicious.That being said, the Commissioner of the IRS that was in charge of the IRS at the time was a George W. Bush appointment; awkward.

Tea Party members, like Glenn Beck, have argued that this overzealous approach to the tax exempt status of Tea Party-aligned groups stifled the ability of the Tea Party to agitate their membership and get them out to vote. No matter the conspiracy or lack of conspiracy, the scandal is going to be another avenue of attack for certain members of the libertarian right in America to attack Barack Obama. The Birther Movement has largely fizzled because of a lack of evidence, but the IRS scandal is real and no matter the protestations of the White House that they did not order any of it, it happened under a Democratic administration. The Right will use this to question the legitimacy of the election and to question the role of the IRS in its other oversight tasks. Like their role in collecting monies for Obamacare…

So, with all that said/written down in actual fact, why not listen in/again to this very special episode of “Conspiracy Corner with a Truman Capote impersonator” on the unfolding IRS scandal?

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