NBC News Somehow Connects Citizens United to IRS Scandal

NBC News Somehow Connects Citizens United to IRS Scandal

On the “Open Channel” investigative reporting blog at NBCNews.com Dave Levinthal of The Center for Public Integrity gets to the real root of the problem surrounding the IRS scandal involving revelations that conservative groups suffered more intense scrutiny when qualifying for their non-profit status. 

According to Levinthal, Citizens United is to blame. 

The agency said this weekend that a heavy workload prompted bureaucrats to “centralize” the “influx of advocacy applications” and, in the name of efficiency, scrutinize groups that contained more common phrases such as “tea party” in them.

Levinthal first lays out his concern that the IRS is understaffed:

The IRS’ Exempt Organizations Division, which finds itself at the scandal’s epicenter, processed significantly more tax exemption applications by so-called 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations — 2,774 during fiscal year 2012 — since at least the late 1990s, according to an analysis of IRS records by the Center for Public Integrity.

Compare that to 1,777 applications in 2011 and 1,741 in 2010, federal records show. Not since 2002, when officials processed 2,402 applications, have so many been received.

Meanwhile, Exempt Organizations Division staffing slid from 910 employees during fiscal year 2009 to 876 during fiscal year 2012, agency personnel documents indicate.

And why are there so many new applications for non-profit organizations under the 501(c)(4) provisions? Believe it or not, Levinthal blames the conservative film production company, Citizens United: 

As for 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations, such as the tea party groups in question, they may engage in politics so long as it isn’t their primary purpose.

During the 2012 election cycle, however, numerous 501(c)(4) organizations — most of them conservative, a few left-leaning and all endowed with new spending powers thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision — together spent tens of millions of dollars overtly advocating for or against political candidates.

And unlike super PACs, which may also raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, they’re not required to reveal their donors.

Levinthal doesn’t go into explaining why, if Citizens United inspired more 501(c)(4) groups to organize over the past few years, why was it only conservative groups who were targeted for closer scrutiny? Why would under-staffing at the IRS only lead to intimidation of conservative groups? 

And the open question to NBC News is why does Levinthal’s partisan and biased article fall under the editorial guidelines for the “investigative journalism” blog on your website?