The Real Scandal of Targeting Nonprofit Groups

The IRS “scandal” has generated enormous outrage from conservatives and the mainstream press alike. According to Republican politicians, it is absolutely unacceptable for the government to target nonprofit groups based on their political ideology. And they’re right, as President Obama has noted. But an example of government targeting of a “liberal” nonprofit that works with the University of Wisconsin at Madison shows the hypocrisy of the IRS “scandal” coverage.

The fact that the IRS scrutiny of Tea Party groups was done by low-level employees without any marching orders from the White House, and the fact that Tea Party groups suffered no punishment, but simply were asked for information and faced delays in their approval, doesn’t change that fundamental principle: The government should not treat nonprofit differently based on their ideology.

So what happens when the shoe is on the other foot, and liberal nonprofit groups are being targeted? Will Republican politicians speak out against this?

No, they won’t, because those Republican politicians are leading the crusade to punish liberal nonprofit groups.

In 2009, responding to a heavily edited video from a right-wing group involving a few ACORN employees, the US House and Senate, kowtowing to demands from Republicans, specifically banned ACORN from receiving any federal funds. Unlike the IRS “scandal,” the politically motivated attacks on ACORN effectively destroyed the organization.

Republican politicians have also led the efforts to ban funding for another nonprofit group, Planned Parenthood, in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Tennessee. Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution calling for an end to “any and all” taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.

Those would be the same Republican politicians calling for the impeachment of Barack Obama because he failed to stop the IRS (because he didn’t know about it) when they were causing minor delays in the approval of conservative groups.

Now, the latest scandal of Republicans openly targeting their political enemies is happening in Wisconsin, where the Republican-run Joint Finance Committee has voted 12-4 to ban a nonprofit group, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from having offices and support from employees at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

The motion not only micromanages the administrative decisions of a public university, but it threatens academic freedom because it will “prohibit UW employees from doing any work related to the Center for Investigative Journalism as part of their duties as a UW employee.” This would restrict the ability of professors to do research or teaching that involves the Center for Investigative Journalism.

The Republican politicians who rightly object to the government engaging in apparent political targeting by the IRS must answer this question: do you believe in this as a principle, and oppose targeting liberal groups by the IRS and Congress? Or are you a hypocrite who only opposes political targeting when it involves the groups you favor?

 

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