Any hope that the I.R.S. would crack down on “dark money” donors who have created tax exempt nonprofit groups for political purposes before the 2016 election is gone. The commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen, told a House committee meeting on Thursday that there were no plans in the works for new regulations before the upcoming elections.
Donors use these tax-exempt organizations because there is no accountability and little paper trail that reveals who is donating to them; the perfect way to funnel money to causes without leaving any fingerprints. Koskinen later gave reporters an unbelievable explanation as to why the I.R.S. was not going to do its job and change the tax code:
“I don’t want people thinking we are trying to get these regs done so we can influence the election.”
His announcement comes on the heels of another decision earlier this year in which the commissioner said he would allow the political organizations who have disguised themselves as nonprofit “social welfare” groups to keep their tax exempt status as long as they only spend up to 49 percent of their revenue on political activity.
The IRS has been under attack from the GOP ever since they began investigating just where the Tea Party groups came from, and where the war-chests that toppled mainstream Republicans from their seats and began rapidly radicalizing American politics. The GOP erupted in self-righteous fury, accusing the IRS of bias and that conservative ‘nonprofits’ were being unfairly targeted by the I.R.S. Even though it was quickly discovered the left-leaning groups were given the same scrutiny that Tea Party groups were given, but that didn’t stop the hysterical cries of victimization and government overreach that fulfilled their purpose- to draw attention away from the puppet masters- the Koch Brothers. Since then, the GOP has been steadily cutting away funding from the I.R.S, hindering them from fulfilling their most basic functions.
Now, they are backing down from the Kochs and their dirty dollars once again. It is absolutely infuriating that Koskinen is not going to crack down on these groups, especially when you find out just how much money they are illegally spending on political activities. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org) these nonprofit organizations exploded after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. In 2006, spending from these dark money fueled nonprofits was just under $5.2 million in 2006, but in 2012, just two years after the SCOTUS ruling, it was over $300 million. This next cycle, they are planning to shell out a jaw-dropping $900 million to tilt the odds in their favor.
This is horrendous news for the fate of our elections. Not only do we have the I.R.S. not taking any action to punish illegal activities, but we have the Federal Election Commission completely unable to enact any kind of reform because of the Republicans on the board. With both the I.R.S. and F.E.C. paralyzed by GOP obstructionism, big money has been given a free pass to take over our elections, potentially drowning out the rest of America. This is why it is so important that a Democrat wins the upcoming election; after four more years, the damage to our democracy might be irreversible.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.