(Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
Amid the uproar over shocking revelations that the Internal Revenue Service strategically targeted conservative groups that sought tax-exempt status are new findings that George Soros-funded organizations are sending letters to the IRS prodding them to investigate conservative groups, such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS.
President Obama on Wednesday announced the firing of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, who will leave the IRS in June, following the Treasury Department's inspector general report that confirmed the biased targeting of conservative groups whose applications included terms like "Tea Party" or "Patriot."
The Christian Post also reported Wednesday that evangelist Franklin Graham sent a letter to Obama on Tuesday to alert the president that Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association were also subjects of an IRS probe during the 2012 campaign season.
Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, acknowledged that it had targeted said groups applying for tax exemption under section 501(c)4, or the "social welfare" classification. Lerner then blamed "low level" employees at their Cincinnati, Ohio, office for selecting these groups for additional reviews.
According to Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture at the Media Research Center, a conservative organization, the IRS' systematic targeting of conservative groups is not a case of two rogue employees in the Cincinnati office striking out on their own to intimidate these organizations.
Gainor told CP on Thursday that anybody who aligns themselves as politically left or right would look at this situation and immediately know that the IRS' investigations were not the result of actions taken by two people. "For the IRS to massively misstate things – I'm stunned. We're talking about multiple violations of the law. The IRS lied to Congress on five separate occasions."
"The IRS employees also violated the Hatch Act," Gainor said, "which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities, left or right, in an effort to protect democracy." Although the IRS' actions have no established direct connection to the Obama administration, Gainor believes the scandal underscores what can happen when ideologically like-minded people serve in federal departments and are pressured by outside groups, of the same political ideology, to investigate organizations deemed to hold an opposing viewpoint.
Case in point, Gainor noted 15 letters sent to the IRS by Soros-funded groups, such as Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, asking them to look into conservative organizations. He believes Americans should be concerned about the money and influence Soros has over the media and political landscape, and said the billionaire philanthropist tramples any influence or money the Koch brothers have given to libertarian and conservative organizations.
With a net worth of $19 billion, Forbes has listed Soros as the richest hedge fund manager in the U.S. And although Soros' website promotes the fact that he's given $8.5 billion to charity, "more than $550 million has been given to left-wing nonprofits," Gainor said. "More than $52 million has gone to left-wing journalism nonprofits – that is scary to me."
In his opinion, the media is supposed to be the checks and balances of the government; and right now, many members are not, because they're intertwined with the executive branch of government and left-of-center organizations.
Gainor cited examples such as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney being married to ABC's Claire Shipman, and media heavyweights such as Steve Kroft of CBS' "60 Minutes" and ABC News President Ben Sherwood, among others, who serve on the board of the Center for Public Integrity, which has received more than $2.7 million from Soros.
"How can you keep neutral when you're doing that?" Gainor asked.
Gainor also noted that a study on 501(c)4 groups published by CPI was cited by Mother Jones, which has received $485,000 from Soros, and was then reposted by the blog Alternet that has also received $285,000 in funding from Soros. By Dec. 28, 2011, the study spurred The New York Times to publish an editorial that asked: "When will the Internal Revenue Service crack down on the secret political money already flooding the 2012 campaign from partisan operatives ludicrously claiming to be 'social welfare' activists under the tax law?"
"Alternet and Mother Jones are both members of The Media Consortium, which is designed to do exactly what happened here. The Media Consortium was created to be a progressive 'echo chamber,' where 63 separate left-wing media outlets can network and share ideas, as well as cross-promote stories. Other members of the Consortium include The Nation, Democracy Now! and The American Prospect. The consortium has also received $675,000 in Soros funds since 2000," according to the MRC.
The Campaign Legal Center, which tracks campaign finance laws at the federal, state and local level, and has received $677,000 from Soros, has sent 15 letters to the IRS over the past three years on a variety of issues, among them being to ask the IRS to make clear the extent to which groups can get involved in campaign activities.
Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the CLC, told CP on Thursday that the organization has not received any direct response from the IRS regarding their letters. "It has been one-way communication," he said. Ryan added that CLC never objected to groups, such as Crossroads GPS, having a tax-exempt status, but questioned whether they qualify as a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, or if they should, instead, be classified as a 527.
A 527 is a tax-exempt organization created to elect or defeat a political candidate for federal, state or local office. But, unlike a 501(c)4, a 527 must make public its list of donors, and it cannot accept unlimited non tax-deductible donations.
Ryan said the "CLC cannot object more strongly to the partisan screening" conducted by the IRS. He added that they will continue to urge the IRS to enforce rules pertaining to organizations' tax-exempt status, but they don't condone doing so with a partisan or political ideology bias.
The CLC, he emphasized, doesn't believe the IRS should be investigating "mom and pop Tea Party groups ... but the big fish, such as Crossroads GPS." According to Ryan, the IRS hasn't made any progress, and the CLC wants the IRS to scrutinize whether these big fish organizations are "in compliance with their tax exempt status."