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Free Speech Is an Unclear Concept to the Tea Party

Well lookey here!  Republicans found out the constitution has more provisions aside from the second amendment. Of course, like most things including the second amendment, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party has a special way of understanding those other provisions – especially the first amendment.

Exhibit 1.

The Tea Party is suing the IRS alleging that the IRS violated their right to free speech, and that they were punished.

Ummm….. the first thing I wonder is how does additional scrutiny to make sure that the Tea PARTY isn’t really a political movement dressed in social welfare clothing before eventually granting them 501c status violates their right to free speech.  This is not to say that I condone the IRS going after groups based on ideology, but let’s remember what we’re discussing here.

The Tea Party and its other conservative friends claimed they qualified for tax exempt and donor anonymity as a 501c group.  While the criteria that the IRS used to further examine their claims was not the correct criteria it doesn’t mean these groups shouldn’t have been scrutinized.  In fact, if we look at the original intent of a 501c group, they shouldn’t have been granted 501 \c status at all.  (Yes, that also applies to liberal political action groups dressed in social welfare clothing.)

Lawrence O’Donnell was the first to explain how congress originally intended 501c groups to be exclusively involved in social welfare activities and how the IRS changed the word “exclusively” to “primarily” in 1959.  The President was also aware of that point when he alluded to necessary fixes in the law during his press conference on the IRS matter.  I wouldn’t hold my breath of this happening under the Tea Party controlled House of Representatives. After all, 501c status is such cash cow for the Koch Brothers, and others who, as Sarah Jones noted, outspent their liberal counterparts by a ratio of 34:1.

One doesn’t have to be a policy wonk or a law wonk to understand that keeping the word exclusively intact, would have clarified things and definitely would have made it impossible for dark money to slither into anonymity with tax free status to boot. When you don’t have ideas, you better have lots and lots of dark money to run attack ads that are no more factual than what passes for news on Fox.

The point is that granting or denying tax exempt and donor anonymity status is not in itself instrumental in whether a group has free speech.  The inference that additional scrutiny was somehow intimidating is a different matter, as Republicans know firsthand from when they used the IRS to intimidate individuals and groups who didn’t goosestep with the Bush Administration.  It’s very difficult to feel sympathy for the hypocrites who won’t think twice of using the IRS to say, intimidate the AARP. Oh right, that’s different because the AARP actually is a social welfare group.

As difficult as it is to have sympathy for the Teapocrites, I’ll agree that on general principle, the IRS shouldn’t be used as a weapon to intimidate political opponents.  I will maintain that while the wrong criteria was used by the IRS, groups with Party as part of their name whose raison d’etre is to support one political party, should have to undergo additional scrutiny when they’re trying to present themselves as social welfare groups.

Let’s remember, that 501c groups like Crossroads, Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party are pushing their agenda on our dime. When organizations like the above get the tax breaks that come with 501c status, it means the rest of us have to make up the short fall.  In that sense, these political organizations are really getting subsidized by we, the taxpayers.

Exhibit #2.

The madman governor of Maine, Paul LePage,  offered his two cents on Wednesday:

The minute we start stifling our speech, we might as well go home, roll up our sleeves and get our guns out,’

The context of this quote illustrates that LePage doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.  After the state house’s appropriations committee refused to let him address the committee, LePage claimed to all who would listen that his first amendment rights were violated.

The free speech provision is intended to protect speech by individuals, from government oppression.

Unlike the average citizen, Le Page is part of the government.  So what we really have here is the executive branch claiming his first amendment rights were denied by the legislative branch.

He went so far as to suggest that this is comparable to the IRS “censoring” the Tea Party, which of course, isn’t true. In fact, the average citizen is typically arrested if they disrupt committee meetings or other legislative sessions, as Maria Meacham, Patricia Maisch and Lori Haas can tell you.  Le Page was merely denied permission to speak to the committee, which is a far cry from censorship.  The fact that he left freely after he was denied an opportunity to speak to the committee, and spoke freely to the press about it, illustrates that point.

More fascinating is the fact that Le Page thinks the way to persuade people that they’re missing out by refusing to hear his pearls of wisdom is at the barrel of a gun.  Yep, that’s freedumb all right.

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