If This is What it Means to be “Conservative” — I’m Proudly a Bleeding Heart Liberal

Clearly, members of the GOP in the House are all about looking for ways to handicap ANY organization tasked with performing regulatory actions that might impede their ideological plans for the future of the United States of Republica.  A case in point is this recent  press release from Representative Amodei’s office.  My comments are in blue italics at various points throughout his release.  Some original text has been highlight in RED for emphasis.

Amodei: Appropriations Financial Services bill reins in IRS, ACA and Dodd Frank

Wednesday June 18, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 Contact:    Brian Baluta, 202-225-6155

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee today passed its fiscal year 2015 bill, which would provide annual funding for the Treasury Department, the Judiciary, the Small Business Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several other agencies.

The bill totals $21.3 billion in funding for these agencies, which is $566 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $2.3 billion below the president’s request for these programs.The legislation prioritizes programs critical to enforcing laws, maintaining an effective judiciary system and helping small businesses, while targeting lower-priority or poor-performing programs – such as the Internal Revenue Service – for reductions.

Well now, that makes just a ton of sense.  IRS is tasked with collecting revenue necessary for the operation of various government operations … so let’s under fund them so we can then make a scapegoat of them when they can no longer effectively perform their regulatory and tax-collecting functions.

“Every day, I am asked, ‘Why don’t you do something?’ This bill ‘does something’ by removing funding from executive agencies that have become political tools of the administration,” said Amodei.   

Bill highlights:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)– Included in the bill is $10.95 billion for the IRS – a cut of $341 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $1.5 billion below the President’s budget request. This will bring the agency’s budget below the sequester level and below the level that was in place in fiscal year 2008. This funding level is sufficient for the IRS to perform its core duties, including taxpayer services and the proper collection of funds, but will require the agency to streamline and make better use of its budget.

Interesting! They continually carp about the IRS not providing for an EMAIL BACKUP strategy as part of their business plan. Server BACKUPs are NOT FREE!  How much more will they stop BACKING UP because they no longer have sufficient funding to do their tax collection duties, let alone ancillary functions like BACKUPS, SYSTEM UPDATES, SOFTWARE IMPROVEMENTS, etc.?

In addition, due to the inappropriate actions by the IRS in targeting groups that hold certain political beliefs, as well as its previous improper use of taxpayer funds, the bill includes the following provisions:

Here we go again, perpetuating the falsehood that ONLY right-wing political groups were scrutinized, when it was actually liberal groups that were denied with some that had already been given tax-exempt status seeing that status revoked (e.g., EmergeAmerica affiliated groups).  NO politically-focused groups should be receiving TAX-EXEMPT 501(c)(4) status, PERIOD!

A prohibition on a proposed regulation related to political activities and the tax-exempt status of 501(c)(4) organizations. The proposed regulation could jeopardize the tax-exempt status of many non-profit organizations and inhibit citizens from exercising their right to freedom of speech, simply because they may be involved in political activity.

Sorry, but I don’t get to deduct my “freedom of speech” contributions to political endeavors.  Thus, NO politically-focused organizations should be able to have a free of tax right to free speech at the American Taxpayer’s expense!

A prohibition on funds for bonuses or awards unless employee conduct and tax compliance are given consideration.

A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs.

Congress passed a law that clearly states that to be considered 501(c)(4) organization, your activities must be EXCLUSIVELY-FOCUSED on “Social Welfare” activities.  Politically-focused activities are NOT social-welfare activities and thus, it IS the IRS’s responsibility to scrutinize and deny tax-exempt status to ANY organization (conservative, liberal or otherwise) not meeting that exclusivity provision.

A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights.

More BS related to the previous proviso — the IRS is NOT prohibiting ANYONE from exercising their free speech.  The IRS is merely and rightfully determining whether a group is a group exclusively devoted to providing SOCIAL-WELFARE opportunities/activities and thus, whether that group is entitled to TAX-EXEMPT status!

A prohibition on funding for the production of inappropriate videos and conferences.

Really?  Oh, please, pray tell, what “inappropriate videos” might it be that the IRS is producing?

A prohibition on funding for the White House to order the IRS to determine the tax-exempt status of an organization.

Again, if you want to allow any organization wanting to conduct EXCLUSIVELY politically focused activities to never have to pay taxes, well then, you need to REPEAL the law that PROHIBITS them from being tax exempt!  You cannot have a LAW on the books that says one thing and then prohibit the IRS, which is responsible for administering that section of the law, from enforcing it!

A requirement for extensive reporting on IRS spending.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) –The bill also includes provisions to stop the IRS from further implementing ObamaCare, including a prohibition on any transfers of funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to the IRS for ObamaCare uses, and a prohibition on funding for the IRS to implement an individual insurance mandate on the American people.

Well, let’s see.  We elected President Obama and a Democratic Congress to get health care reform. Then, the Republican propaganda machine bought a Republican House.  Despite their efforts to gerry-rig the system, we still re-elected President Obama. Health care reform is one of the hardest things we’ve ever worked on. But no matter, they just keep trying to either LIE ABOUT REPEAL or DEFUND access to healthcare for the American People despite its need or popularity.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)– Included in the bill is $1.4 billion for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is $50 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $300 million below the President’s budget request. The increase in funds is targeted specifically toward critical information technology initiatives. The legislation also includes a prohibition on the SEC spending any money out of its “reserve fund” – essentially a slush fund for the SEC to use without any congressional oversight.

In addition, the legislation contains requirements for the Administration to report to Congress on the cost and regulatory burdens of the Dodd-Frank Act, and a prohibition on funding to require political donation information in SEC filings.

My my, lookie here — looks like an increase in funding.  But wait, isn’t this the organization that’s supposed to regulate Wall Street?  It’s a shame that the increase in funding is just for a bit of information technology so they can determine how their GOP-Donor base is affected by any sort of regulation.  It’s also despicable that they’ve included a proviso that PROHIBITS any reporting of information as to Corporate political donations.  If you and I donate, our freedom of speech is broadcast for all to see … but the Republican Donor-base has a special privileged secreted freedom of speech.  Apparently the Republicans believe their Donors are free to speak with their Dollars, but the general American public is underserving of being able to speak with their dollars in response.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)– The bill includes a provision to change the funding source for the CFPB from the Federal Reserve to the congressional appropriations process, starting in fiscal year 2016. Currently, funding for this agency is provided by mandatory spending and is not subject to annual congressional review. This change will allow for increased accountability and transparency of the agency’s activities and use of tax dollars. The legislation also requires extensive reporting on CFPB activities.

The Republicans have done EVERYTHING conceivably possible to handicap, repeal, defund and decapitate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  This is yet their latest attempt to defund and cripple any and all Consumer financial protection at the behest of their Donor-base.

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Are House Republicans Not Just OCD, But Bipolar as well?

— Vickie Rock, a Disgruntled Citizen

IRSscandalOver the past year, we’ve heard one claim after another ad nauseum from Republican members of Congress as to how the IRS is discriminating against Republican groups in obtaining 501c4 tax-exempt status. Frankly, that’s a status that NO group promoting political activity should be granted, period.

Not one single Republican/Tea Party group was actually found to have been denied 501c4 status or had such status revoked.  Yet that didn’t matter.  Rep. Issa and his minions in a flagrant display of classic Obsessive Compulsive Dysfunction kept spreading lies with the help of their FoxNews mouthpieces.  Truth be known, it was NOT  Teapublican leaning groups who had their 501c4 status denied/revoked, but Democratic groups, EmergeAmerica and their state affiliates, like EmergeNV.  (Emerge educates/trains/ prepares Democratic women to run for office.)

Last week, in the U.S. House, HR 3865, the “Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014,” was passed by a 243-176 vote.  A sum total of 14 Democrats voted for passage of the bill, and it’s now being touted as a “bipartisan” effort. (Really? What’s the magic number to classify a bill as “bi-partisan”?  One, Two, Five, Fourteen?)  It’s unclear, though, exactly what, if anything, it’s intended or expected to correct.  It looks more like an intentional perpetuation of the conflict we’ve now been experiencing for the past year.

Democrats who voted FOR passage:

  • Barber (AZ)
  • Barrow (GA)
  • Costa (CA)
  • Cuellar (TX)
  • Gallego (TX)
  • Kirkpatrick (AZ)
  • Larsen (WA)
  • Matheson (UT)
  • McIntyre (NC)
  • Murphy (FL)
  • Owens (NY)
  • Peterson (MN)
  • Rahall (WV)
  • Sinema (AZ)

HR3865 mandates that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standards and definitions that were in effect as of January 1, 2010, that were being used to determine whether an organization qualifies for tax-exempt status because it operate exclusively for social welfare shall remain in effect for just ONE YEAR after enactment of this Act.  (What? Do they think between voter suppression and the promotion of bogus propaganda using these groups that they’ll be able to take both houses using, abusing and obliterating all other political contenders within the next year?)  The lack of clarity of these standards has resulted in confusion and difficulty administering the Code, as well as delays in the processing of applications for tax-exempt status. Passage would prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury from issuing, revising, or finalizing any regulation (including proposed regulations), revenue ruling, or other guidance not limited to a particular taxpayer relating to such standards and definitions.

So let’s see, HR3865 mandates that the IRS must keep the debatable and erroneous skim milk definition of “EXCLUSIVELY” currently being used by the IRS—that same definition that re-defined “EXCLUSIVELY” as “PRIMARILY”—that same definition that has yielded fodder for Rep. Issa’s bogus claims of retaliation against 501c4 groups of the Teapublican persuasion:

Exclusively:

  • limited to the object or objects designated: exclusive attention to what’s cited
  • limiting or limited to possession, control, or use by a single individual or group (those performing social welfare functions)
  • an exclusive right (as to sell a particular product, or in this case to be entitled to tax-exempt status to those performing social welfare functions)

Primarily:

  • for the most part; mostly; chiefly; mainly; largely; generally; some of the time

HR3865 looks to me to be nothing more than a king-size order of obsessive compulsive dysfunction with a rabid side order of bipolar dysfunction. Should the Senate be so foolish as to let this bill see the light of day and take a vote which yields passage, they’ll be able to rant,  rave and second guess each and every decision the IRS makes, claiming that somehow, the President is behind each and every one of those decision.  Maybe they’ll even go so far as to institute actual impeachment proceedings based on their bogus misinformation campaigns.  On the other hand, maybe they should just take a good hard look in their mirror instead and then make a serious decision to seek medical help.  The Affordable Care Act can help them deal with their dysfunctional behavior.

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Not Just the Koch Brothers: New Study Reveals Funders Behind the Climate Change Denial Effort

Press Release by Robert J Brulle, PhD

RobertBrulleA new study conducted by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle, PhD, exposes the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the powerful climate change countermovement. This study marks the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis ever conducted of the sources of funding that maintain the denial effort.

Through an analysis of the financial structure of the organizations that constitute the core of the countermovement and their sources of monetary support, Brulle found that, while the largest and most consistent funders behind the countermovement are a number of well-known conservative foundations, the majority of donations are “dark money,” or concealed funding.

The data also indicates that Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, two of the largest supporters of climate science denial, have recently pulled back from publicly funding countermovement organizations. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to countermovement organizations through third party pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, whose funders cannot be traced, has risen dramatically.

Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, conducted the study during a year-long fellowship at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. The study was published today in Climatic Change, one of the top 10 climate science journals in the world.

The climate change countermovement is a well-funded and organized effort to undermine public faith in climate science and block action by the U.S. government to regulate emissions. This countermovement involves a large number of organizations, including conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and conservative foundations, with strong links to sympathetic media outlets and conservative politicians.

To uncover how the countermovement was built and maintained, Brulle developed a listing of 118 important climate denial organizations in the U.S. He then coded data on philanthropic funding for each organization, combining information from the Foundation Center with financial data submitted by organizations to the Internal Revenue Service. “The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on the issue of global warming,” said Brulle. “Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight — often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians — but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers, in the form of conservative foundations. If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.”

The final sample for analysis consisted of 140 foundations making 5,299 grants totaling $558 million to 91 organizations from 2003 to 2010. The data shows that these 91 organizations have an annual income of just over $900 million, with an annual average of $64 million in identifiable foundation support. Since the majority of the organizations are multiple focus organizations, not all of this income was devoted to climate change activities, Brulle notes.

Key findings include:

  • Conservative foundations have bank-rolled denial. The largest and most consistent funders of organizations orchestrating climate change denial are a number of well-known conservative foundations, such as the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation. These foundations promote ultra-free-market ideas in many realms.
  • Koch and ExxonMobil have recently pulled back from publicly visible funding. From 2003 to 2007, the Koch Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation were heavily involved in funding climate-change denial organizations. But since 2008, they are no longer making publicly traceable contributions.
  • Funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to denial organizations by the Donors Trust has risen dramatically. Donors Trust is a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation now provides about 25% of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change.
  • Most funding for denial efforts is untraceable. Despite extensive data compilation and analyses, only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to climate change denying organizations can be specifically accounted for from public records. Approximately 75% of the income of these organizations comes from unidentifiable sources.

This chart shows the overall amount and percentage distribution of foundation funding of countermovement organizations

Climate Change Denialism money (image by Robert J. Brulle, PhD)

“The real issue here is one of democracy. Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible,” said Brulle. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square. Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat. At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts.”

Brulle has authored numerous articles and book chapters on environmental science, and is a frequent media commentator on climate change. He co-edited   Power, Justice and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement   (2005) with David Pellow, and is the author of  Agency, Democracy, and Nature: U.S. Environmental Movements from a Critical Theory Perspective   (2000). This study is part one of a three-part project by Brulle to examine the climate movement in the U.S. at the national level. The next step in the project is to examine the environmental movement or the climate change movement. Brulle will then compare the whole funding flow to the entire range of organizations on both sides of the debate.

Brulle previously served as a commissioned officer in the United States Coast Guard for two decades. He received a doctorate in sociology from George Washington University, a master of science degree in natural resources from the University of Michigan, a master of arts degree in sociology from the New School for Social Research and a bachelor of science degree in marine engineering from the United States Coast Guard Academy.

The full paper is available here.

Reprinted from drexel.edu/now/news-media/releases

IRS Finally Taking a Stand Against Citizens United by Fixing Their Interpretive Error

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have announced they will issue initial guidance regarding qualification requirements for tax-exemption as a social welfare organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.  This proposed guidance defines the term “candidate-related political activity,” and would amend current regulations by indicating that the promotion of social welfare does not include this type of activity.  The proposed guidance also seeks initial comments on other aspects of the qualification requirements, including what proportion of a 501(c)(4) organization’s activities must promote social welfare.

There are a number of steps in the regulatory process that must be taken before any final guidance can be issued.  Given the significant public interest in these and related issues, Treasury and the IRS expect to receive a large number of comments.  Treasury and the IRS are committed to carefully and comprehensively considering all of the comments received before issuing additional proposed guidance or final rules.

“This proposed guidance is a first critical step toward creating clear-cut definitions of political activity by tax-exempt social welfare organizations,” said Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur.  “We are committed to getting this right before issuing final guidance that may affect a broad group of organizations.  It will take time to work through the regulatory process and carefully consider all public feedback as we strive to ensure that the standards for tax-exemption are clear and can be applied consistently.”

“This is part of ongoing efforts within the IRS that are improving our work in the tax-exempt area,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel.  “Once final, this proposed guidance will continue moving us forward and provide clarity for this important segment of exempt organizations.”

TP501c4

Organizations may apply for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code if they operate to promote social welfare.  The IRS currently applies a “facts and circumstances” test to determine whether an organization is engaged in political campaign activities that do not promote social welfare.  Today’s proposed guidance would reduce the need to conduct fact-intensive inquiries by replacing this test with more definitive rules.

In defining the new term, “candidate-related political activity,” Treasury and the IRS drew upon existing definitions of political activity under federal and state campaign finance laws, other IRS provisions, as well as suggestions made in unsolicited public comments.

Under the proposed guidelines, candidate-related political activity includes:

  • Communications
  • Communications that expressly advocate for a clearly identified political candidate or candidates of a political party.
  • Communications that are made within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) and clearly identify a candidate or political party.
  • Communications expenditures that must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
  • Grants and Contributions
  • Any contribution that is recognized under campaign finance law as a reportable contribution.
  • Grants to section 527 political organizations and other tax-exempt organizations that conduct candidate-related political activities (note that a grantor can rely on a written certification from a grantee stating that it does not engage in, and will not use grant funds for, candidate-related political activity).
  • Activities Closely Related to Elections or Candidates
  • Voter registration drives and “get-out-the-vote” drives.
  • Distribution of any material prepared by or on behalf of a candidate or by a section 527 political organization.
  • Preparation or distribution of voter guides that refer to candidates (or, in a general election, to political parties).
  • Holding an event within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) at which a candidate appears as part of the program.

These proposed rules reduce the need to conduct fact-intensive inquiries, including inquiries into whether activities or communications are neutral and unbiased.

Treasury and the IRS are planning to issue additional guidance that will address other issues relating to the standards for tax exemption under section 501(c)(4).  In particular, there has been considerable public focus regarding the proportion of a section 501(c)(4) organization’s activities that must promote social welfare.  Due to the importance of this aspect of the regulation, the proposed guidance requests initial comments on this issue.  The proposed guidance also seeks comments regarding whether standards similar to those proposed today should be adopted to define the political activities that do not further the tax-exempt purposes of other tax-exempt organizations and to promote consistent definitions across the tax-exempt sector.

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IRS Scandal Manufactured by Darrell Issa’s Himself

Darrell Issa has been shown to be a liar – and a fraud . Why would Issa suddenly do a 360 – and start up the Benghazi investigation again – when he’s been so adamant about getting to the bottom of the so-called IRS scandal? Issa’s sudden change in witch-hunting direction may have something to do with the not-so-surprising revelation that the entire IRS debacle has been one large manufactured scandal – created by Issa himself. According to the inspector general of the Treasury Department – whose report helped drive the IRS political targeting controversy – the examination into conservative groups was limited because of a request from Republicans in the House.  A spokesperson for the Treasury’s Inspector General for tax administration Russell George – said that the IG’s office was asked specifically by Congressman Darrell Issa himself – “to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.”