Saturday, February 25, 2006

Interesting IRS message

The IRS on Friday issued a report on illegal political activities by 501(C)3 non-profits:

The Internal Revenue Service said yesterday it found a "disturbing" amount of illegal politicking in churches and charities after investigating complaints coming out of the 2004 election.
To prevent a repeat in the upcoming congressional elections, the agency said it is gearing up to quickly investigate and quash any violations that arise this year.

Hmmm. One Ohio TV station (it's about them, remember?) believes its reports on a GOP-aligned religious alliance brought the IRS Commissioner to Cleveland to announce the report:
IRS Commissioner Mark Everson came to Cleveland to deliver the warning about the crackdown. ...
This announcement came just a week after a 5 On Your Investigation into two Ohio groups accused of mixing politics and preaching.
5 On Your Side went inside a meeting of a group called Restoration Ohio, led by a Columbus pastor.
The group insists it doesn't endorse candidates, only educates voters. On this day, it gave an award to Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell for his support on banning gay marriage.
Another group comprised of 31 Ohio pastors believes Restoration Ohio is breaking the law, and has asked the IRS to investigate.
"They crossed the line and they're not acting as a church, in my mind. They're acting more like a political organization to elect a single candidate," said the Rev. Eric Williams.

But I've gone all the way through this IRS report, and can't find a word about the partisan breakdown of the scandals. I can't find any specific mention of any specific violation at all.

So the assumption -- for example, by the left-wingers at Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- that this IRS report is strictly a shot across the bow of the Religious Right, seems to me unfounded. There is such a thing as a Religious Left, after all, and some pulpits have been especially welcoming to Democrats in recent decades.

But we shall see what happens in this election year. Nobody can say they haven't been warned, at least. And nobody who's ever tangled with the IRS would recommend risking it.