During Tuesday’s congressional hearing on groups targeted by the IRS, Rep. Aaron Schock demolished the arguments being made Democrats in two bold strokes.
Democrats in the hearing argued that scrutiny is appropriate for any group engaged in political activity and applying for 501(c)4 status. They further suggested the conservative groups filed for 501(c)(4) status in order to hide their donor lists, implying these organizations were hiding large influxes of cash. In response, Rep. Schock asked three Tea Party groups giving testimony to state their annual budgets.
Diane Belsom of the Laurens County, S.C. Tea Party stated that her total budget in 2010 was under $2,000. In 2011 the budget increased to about $2,500 and finally in 2012 it reached $9,000. Another witness, Karen Kenney of the San Fernando Valley, California Patriots, said her annual budget was negative in 2010 and 2011 in part because of money spent on attorneys to prepare the group’s 501(c)4 application.
Having established that no significant campaign cash was flowing through these groups, Rep. Schock then pulled up the description of Organizing for Action, a 501(c)4 whose stated mission is to “support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda
Americans voted for on Election Day 2012.” OFA describes this agenda as including legislation on “gun violence prevention,
sensible environmental policies to address climate change and
immigration reform.” Despite the obvious political overtones, OFA’s work is considered within the proper realm of a 501(c)4 activity, i.e. promoting social welfare.
Democrats seemed to have a hard time accepting the idea that other people’s definitions of social welfare may differ from their own. This is why none of the Democrats in the hearing expressed concern about OFA or any of the other progressive 501(c)4 groups which engage in political activity. They seem to take for granted that their definition of social welfare–on marriage, gun control, the environment–are the definitions.
Rep. Schock effectively pointed out how myopic this view is. One person’s social welfare is another person’s political activity. Democrats don’t get to set the rules for everyone. Not only did people at the IRS not understand this, it seems the Democratic Party as a whole is still struggling to grasp it.