Each night when I switch over from cable TV to local TV I am assaulted again and again by an ad against a Democratic candidate from a neighboring district. This ad has a suburban mom with long blonde hair admonishing Andrew Brindisi for not accomplishing anything in Congress. Obviously this woman is lying because almost 400 bills have been passed in the House of Representatives and Anthony Brindisi has voted his little heart out, but all of these bills are sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk, or in his closet, or in his circular file. This means that the reason Mr. Brindisi has not accomplished anything is because the Republicans won’t let him. Then Mrs. Suburban American throws in that fine old chestnut admonishing Brindisi to “secure the border.” How 2016….OK, you say all is fair in love and politics but I say “you get what you pay for.”
This ad is sponsored by a group with lots of money, obviously, because the ad plays over and over again, sometimes 10 times a night. Yet the ad time was purchased by American Action Network, a nonprofit with a 501c4 tax exempt status (religious). These groups only get to keep this status if they don’t put their thumb on the political scales in an election. These groups are not being held to the rules of nonprofit status because the Republicans fought a battle of intimidation with the IRS in which they accused the IRS of being partisan. Surprisingly the IRS backed off and the Republicans won, so now religious groups break the rules of nonprofits with impunity. I’m thinking that poor Anthony Brindisi doesn’t stand a chance of being reelected in 2020.
Once again Republicans make a disingenuous argument. Nonprofits are allowed to educate so they pretend that their very partisan ads are intended to educate. This is what happens to language these days. Words are slippery. They mean different things to different people. Nonsense, but dangerous nonsense.
We have learned by listening to the Impeachment mark-up hearings currently being held to pin down the Articles of Impeachment that the Republicans have endless grievances against the terrible Democrats. The Dems have treated Republicans abominably according to the Republicans. Republican testimony at the hearings offers perfect examples of the ways the Republicans like to make our brains hurt. We see the ways they twist the facts. They show us the ways they gaslight (make us think we are the crazy ones).
The Republicans never forget any Democratic “sins”. When the Republicans speak about Trump he sounds so innocent, and so victimized. Democrats are trying to overturn the 2016 election say the Republicans and the Dems want to pretend it turned out differently. But it is actually Trump who cheated in 2016, and Trump who tried to cheat again in 2020, both times asking for interference by a foreign country in an American election. And it is Trump, who says he knows how to build a wall, who has built an impenetrable wall around his administration so that no documents are accessible and no humans are allowed to speak. He has William Barr as the 4-eyed cyclops guarding his domain. And Trump certainly knows how to build a metaphorical wall, although he is having a bit more difficulty building the actual wall.
One of the most ridiculous grievances the Republicans have expressed in these hearings is the 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) IRS grievance they bring up over and over, which is so esoteric that it never gets discussed. The IRS felt that Republicans were abusing these two tax exempt categories. The c3 category is the one used by religious organizations. They are tax exempt as long as they do not engage in partisan politics. The c4 category allows social welfare groups to be tax exempt as long as they do not engage in partisan politics.
When the IRS started to audit lots of Republican c3 groups and c4 groups, the Republican Party threatened the IRS, something most of us never imagined was possible or even a good idea, and the Republicans even tossed around the idea of getting rid of the IRS. The IRS stated that the 501 c3’s and c4’s that claimed to be religious organizations or social welfare organizations were actually working to elect Republicans and that they should not be tax exempt. The IRS backed down when Republicans accused them of being partisan, and now the Republicans are pretending to lick a wound that was never actually sustained.
Those Republican groups were violating their c3 and c4 status. There were not equal numbers of Democratic groups doing the same thing. The Republicans got away with this tax cheat through intimidation and by calling the IRS partisan, a label apparently intolerable to the IRS. The Republican Party, currently a totally partisan operation, loves to charge everyone else with partisanship. Republicans are not victims. They are liars and they are breaking our tax laws.
Here are the names of some organizations with c3 and c4 tax exemptions that have been printing pamphlets to hand out in church bulletins, suggesting sermon messages to preachers in megachurches, conducting get-out the-Republican-vote studies, collecting information that shows the intimate data on every voter in America, especially Republicans, swing state voters, and minority voters, and sharing that data with state and federal election campaigns, and many more partisan political election activities.
These organizations have learned almost everything there is to know about voters in America and they have incestuous entanglements with the Republican Party and big donors on the right. They are deeply engaged in politics and they have turned voting into a science which is ironic for a group that hates science. These groups, especially the religious groups, own an enormous media network, mostly radio stations and they do conduct religious services for their listeners; but they also discuss and even preach about politics to a huge swath of America. They have hitched their wagon to the Republican political train and their services are tax free. Victims – I think not. They should let this particular grievance claim go. This is just one lie, but it is the tip of a very big iceberg of false claims of grievous wounds supposedly suffered by the Republican Party at the hands of the Democrats.
An incomplete list of groups follows (there are more) and you can check their tax status online:
Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Susan B. Anthony List, Students for Life of America, Live Action, Faith and Freedom Coalition, United in Purpose, National Religious Broadcasters, Alliance Defending Freedom, Leadership Institute, Federalist Society, American Center for Law and Justice, Heritage Foundation, Tea Party Patriots, State Policy Network, National Rifle Association, i360 (data platform launched with Koch brothers funding), Themis Trust (i360’s original parent company), Data Trust (Republican National Committee database), Barna Group (evangelical polling firm)
The source of this data is the book Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson, Bloomsbury Publishing, October 29, 2019, a book which should give you nightmares if you read it.