Campaign finance laws, a 10,000-page tax code and a compromised Internal Revenue Service infected with partisan hacks make for a tangled mess. The latest IRS scandal should shed some light on the roots of the problem.
For decades, tax-exempt organizations such as the AFL-CIO, Roman Catholic Church and many others have advocated certain political beliefs to their members and the public at large. This despite a supposed requirement for these organizations to be non-political (or at least not blatantly political) to qualify for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) status.
A Catholic priest can remind his parishioners on the Sunday before election day to think about protecting the vulnerable unborn when they cast their ballots. He may not come out and say "Vote Republican" (or in rare instances, vote for a Democrat who is pro-life). But you know that's what he means.
Likewise, labor unions can preach to their members about voting for a higher mininumum wage, against free trade agreements and for more socialized medicine. They are not endorsing specific Democrat candidates, but they certainly are endorsing that side of the aisle.
This is all a big dog-n-pony show, a lot of sturm-and-drang that gets liberals apoplectic, disgusts conservatives, and enriches lawyers.
Put simply, having the IRS play nanny to nonprofits, and attempting to regulate money in politics are the equivalent of passing a law against gravity, or trying to make water run uphill. Money and other types of influence will always find their way into politics, especially as the federal government keeps getting bigger and bigger, with more and more of other people's money to pass out.
Laws can have unintended consequences no matter how well-intentioned they may be. Tax exemptions for nonprofit groups that meet certain criteria offer plenty of opportunities for mischief, meddling and manipulation.
We need to rethink what we're doing with the government's power of taxation and citizens' right to free speech. I am for removing the muzzle, but ensuring that organizations that receive tax-exempt status are more along the lines of churches and charitable organizations as opposed to labor unions and chambers of commerce that charge membership dues to their members.
It's a can of worms, granted. And attempts at tax simplification always threaten to gore the oxes of various special interest groups, making real reform practically impossible.
But let's admit that the present system is a farce.
PRAYERS TO THE PEOPLE OF OKLAHOMA — My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Moore, Okla., and nearby communites that have been devastated by a horrible tornado this afternoon. As of about 9 p.m. EST, 51 people are confirmed dead from an EF-4 tornado, and dozens are injured.