After House Speaker John Boehner's ridiculous statement that he wants to know "who is going to jail" over the recent scandal at the IRS -- and Nancy Pelosi's statement that we need a "clear definition of what a 501(c)(4) is -- MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell did his best to attempt to remind these politicians that there is no need to change existing law to fix this problem.
Ahead of this Friday's hearing, O'Donnell hopes that at least one of the members of Congress attending will ask the IRS why they decided to change the way they enforced the statute.
As O’Donnell has been saying since Monday, the so-called IRS scandal is only the consequence of an older and more basic problem with the organization’s reading of the tax code–specifically, with its reading of Section 501(c)(4), which exempts social welfare groups from paying taxes.
The law defines such groups as “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.” Since 1959, the IRS has been reading “exclusively” as “primarily.”
“By doing that they made IRS agents judges of political activity, investigators of political activity,” O’Donnell explained in the Rewrite Thursday. “IRS agents were then forced to evaluate just how political a given 501(c)(4) organization might be. And it is very clear that if the words “Tea Party” or the name of any political party at all appears in the title of your 501(c)(4) you absolutely do not qualify for 501(c)(4) status under the law.”
Some politicians, however, still don’t seem to understand the interplay between this law and how it’s enforced.