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That's Called Profiling and Profiling is Wrong...

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published
Credit: Bloomberg

irs scandal

Recently, I happened upon a message online about how it has been 3 months since the IRS scandal began and there remains little to no accountability by the Obama administration. To sum up the issue, the IRS was caught singling out specific groups, many of which are organizations associated with a more conservative ideology, and subjecting them to exceptional scrutiny even though these organizations have 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.

Since then the story has centered around the question: how much involvement did the higher ups in the Obama administration have in this scandal? The only time the question of why these organizations received more scrutiny than usual is to point out that these are groups with 'tea party" and other political keywords in their names to accuse the IRS of political profiling.

However, even this is not pressed too hard by conservative-friendly outlets because people will begin to ask questions -- the right questions.

Profiling is a word with negative connotations. People don't like to be accused of it because it is often considered a synonym for discrimination. No matter what kind it is -- race, gender, political, etc --  it is the wildcard that can make any hand look better, but use it too often and people will look harder and realize they have been cheated. Those attempting to keep this a scandal have played the game long enough to know when to play on and when to fold.

According to the law, 501(c)(4) organizations are groups dedicated to social welfare programs. The IRS defines these groups as "primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare."

It has been the subject of much contention since the 2010 Citizens United decision that 501(c)(4)s are the perfect front to be able to raise an unlimited amount of political funding without donations having to be disclosed. Misrepresentation like this has a nasty legal name... fraud, which is why the biggest opponents of the IRS won't push the "why" question too much.

Earlier this year, it was reported that approximately 69 percent of the organizations investigated by the IRS had strong political ties. When political words like "tea party," "patriots," "9/12," "we the people," and "take back the country" were found in applications for tax exemption as social welfare organizations, it raised some red flags.

The IRS, by definition, profiled these organizations based on keywords used in their applications. Some people don't want to use the word because of the negative connotations that come with it, but you have to call a spade a spade.

It is just like in 2010 when advocates of Arizona's SB 1070, a law that allowed police officers to check residency status if they had reasonable suspicion a person was in the country illegally, had to defend it against claims that it promoted racial profiling. The major proponents of the bill, many of whom now adamantly oppose the IRS, couldn't adequately explain how a police officer could have reasonable suspicion that someone is in this country illegally without taking the person's ethnicity into consideration.

Call a spade a spade.

Both cases involve profiling of some kind. There is no way one type of profiling equals another in terms of merit and each case should be judged individually. However, just like with the issue of SB 1070, there are bigger issues with the IRS scandal which are being largely ignored. Yes, this could be a huge scandal, but not for the reason people hear in talking points from politicians or from the coverage it gets in mainstream media outlets.

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