Friday, July 21, 2006

Abuse of IRS Power?

It isn't news that the wealthy Health and Human Services Secretary and former Utah governor Mike Leavitt is using a "charitable foundation" as a tax dodge to shelter his clan's millions. The hapless electorate are used to seeing the powerful at the trough.

It is news when the IRS Commissioner Mark Everson goes after a Bush Cabinet member over what he views as a "personal piggy banks for the rich" scam, as reported in WaPo's "HHS Secretary's Fund Gave Little to Charity."

As the headline points out, while "Mike Leavitt alone has claimed about $1.2 million in tax write-offs since 2000, the foundation gave away only $49,000 in 2002 and $52,000 the next year." But the Leavitt family can afford good "loophole" attorneys. And they are hard at work.

Commissioner Everson made more headlines recently in the Los Angles Times, "IRS Warns Churches to Stay Neutral on Politics." "While the vast majority of charities and churches do not engage in politicking, an increasing number did take part in prohibited activities in the 2004 election cycle," Everson said in a statement. "We are stepping up our efforts" to enforce the rule against political campaign intervention by churches and charities.

It is still to be seen if this "crackdown" on tax-exempt institutions will be sweeping or selective. The only cases cited in the article was a liberal church that criticized the war in Iraq before the 2004 election, and the NAACP after "chairman Julian Bond, criticized the Bush administration's politics on civil rights."

The status of these cases is unknown. So far only three tax-exempt entities have lost their nonprofit designation since 2004, none are churches. Not a very impressive track record.

What about the overtly political Christian right organizations who constantly meddle in elections?.... or does Bush's "faith-based initiative" program protect them, and the IRS turn a blind eye.

Just who is this IRS "crusader" Everson. He's been commissioner since 2003. Before that he had lots of Office of Management and Budget experience. During the Reagan administration he was deputy commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and oversaw implementation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 that granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.

So are these real IRS campaigns.... or the Bush administration, through the power of the IRS, trying to quiet dissenting voices, and keep the fat cats in line, by rattling their "decider" saber at their critics before the November elections.

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