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July 14, 2014

Mitchel Olszak: IRS email fight clouds the issue

NEW CASTLE — A scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service is now focused on missing emails.

The absent data could represent the smoking gun Republicans have been seeking in their endless efforts to discredit the Obama administration. Or it could be just another example of government incompetence that’s hardly limited to any administration or political party.

In cased you missed it (and I’m guessing lots of Americans tune out what comes from Washington these days), at issue is whether or not the IRS essentially dragged its feet in approving nonprofit status for various conservative organizations back in 2012.

It’s alleged this was done to deny these organization the opportunity to raise funds and wage combat on behalf of Republicans (or against Democrats) in that year’s general elections. The broader suggestion is that this scheme was directed to some extent by people within the Obama administration.

The missing emails come into play because they were on the computers of key IRS officials. Hard drives supposedly became corrupted and the emails were lost. The hard drives were later destroyed without recovering the emails, IRS officials say. The convenience of all this has raised the spectre of a conspiracy.

If incriminating emails were destroyed, that’s a pretty juicy revelation. But Republicans have created a Chicken Little problem for themselves in recent years. Listening to them, everything this White House does is wrong, corrupt, evil, unconstitutional, etc. At some point, many people stop paying attention.

But it seems to me all this talk about politics and missing emails misses the larger point.

And that is: Why are organizations able to declare themselves nonprofit in order to influence elections?

Or more to the point: Why are my tax dollars effectively subsidizing this garbage?

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that money is the same as speech when it comes to politics, the floodgates have opened to all sorts of idiotic advertising designed to either encourage or discourage us in terms of voting for various candidates. The result has been a new industry arising where lots of money is flowing into organizations that desire nonprofit status to assist their efforts.

And I am sure plenty of people are making a tidy little sum in salaries with the help of these IRS designations.

But the IRS and its agents don’t craft the laws that allow this to happen. That’s the work of Congress — the same folks attacking the agency today.

Why put government bureaucrats in the position of having to assess all of this, and whether or not blatantly political groups deserve nonprofit designation?

The reason is that politicians benefit from this arrangement. They won’t bite the hand that feeds them.

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