In football, the risk of blitzing is that you expose your defense. You might sack the other team’s quarterback, but you may give up the long touchdown that seals the game instead. In Tuesday’s hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on the IRS scandal, Democrats blitzed the Tea Party–and got burned, badly.
Whether they acted on bad advice or out of frustration, Democrats missed badly with their attacks on the witnesses. They came across as bullies–with the exception, perhaps, of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who once falsely accused the Tea Party of racism but undoubtedly knows about the importance of 501(c)4 status in the history of the civil rights struggle. Worse, Democrats saw their cherished Citizens United defense crushed.
Over and over again in the past several weeks, Democrats have insisted that the real issue at the heart of the IRS scandal is the unbounded donations permitted by the Supreme Court’s 2010 holding in Citizens United, or the confusion surrounding the boundary between political advocacy and social welfare for 501(c)4 groups.
But in the person of Diane Belsom of the Laurens County Tea Party, and Dr. John Eastman, Chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, that argument ran into a sharp buzz-saw of common sense. In response to a Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who claimed that taxpayers were subsidizing 501(c)4 organizations, Belsom noted that donations to 501(c)4 groups were not tax-deductible and that the protection of tax-exempt status was to protect the organization from being taxed on donations.
Dr. Eastman pointed out–twice–that the anonymity provided to 501(c)4 groups had protected the NAACP from its persecutors during the civil rights era, and that it was necessary to protect traditional marriage advocates from ongoing harassment. He singled out Rep. Blumenauer and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) for their misleading attacks, and called for prosecution of those who had leaked his group’s donors illegally.
The coup de grâce came during questioning by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), who pointed out the elephant in the room: President Barack Obama’s own Organizing for Action, a 501(c)4 group specifically devoted to the defense of the president’s policies. Rep. McDermott interrupted to state that Organizing for Action should also disclose its donors as well. Yet clearly that is not on the agenda for Democrats or the White House.
For whatever reason–perhaps to please their base, or to excite the commentators on MSNBC–Democrats decided to charge. In doing so they established themselves firmly in the IRS scandal’s gallery of villains.