IRS Apology for Tea Party Racists?

If any other group called for the government's demise, the GOP would have a fit.

U.S. Internal Revenue Service building (Christian Science Monitor/Getty)
U.S. Internal Revenue Service building (Christian Science Monitor/Getty)

(The Root) — The confederacy of dunces that makes up the Republican Party leadership and Fox News want you to believe that liberal operatives at the IRS abused power — for political purposes — by scrutinizing conservative Tea Party affiliates applying for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status. What has been missed in the mainstream debate on the topic is the fact that the Tea Party should have been scrutinized. Race, money, political power and extremist ideology are the smoking guns — and it’s time to follow the money trail.

President Obama chose to get ahead of the scandal, saying that targeting of conservative groups was “inexcusable.” Heads are already rolling after the official inspector general’s report, which forced the acting IRS commissioner to resign. Analysis on the political left and center has proven equally appeasing of GOP critics, with many liberals buying into Republican talking points. But what is being ignored is a critical truth that, from its inception, the Tea Party movement has resembled an activist organization driven by white supremacist ideology — its sole organizing purpose being to oppose the nation’s first African-American president.

What is different about the Tea Party (as opposed to more blatant radicals) is that it morphed into a pseudo-policy force whose expressed concerns were excessive government spending and debt. This gave it legitimacy among the Beltway chattering classes and, as such, the Tea Party is a well-oiled, well-funded machine that has now been surreptitiously co-opted by the Republican establishment and used to swift-boat the president on every issue from the debt ceiling to sequestration to judicial and Cabinet appointments and the jobs bill.

What does this have to do with the IRS?

If the majority of Tea Party members had been Muslim — arriving at rallies with concealed weapons and signs depicting the U.S. president as Hitler and reading, “Don’t tread on me” or “Take back our country” — House Republicans would readily build a bipartisan coalition requiring the CIA, FBI and IRS to investigate its members and their financial backers. No stone would be left unturned. The Patriot Act would be used as justification, and if questions arose, the official answer would be “no comment” in the name of “national security.”

Beginning as early as 2007 and 2008, the FBI, Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security all reported increases in white supremacist activity — in direct response to the ascendency of Barack Obama. A special DHS report in 2009 showed that many extremist and self-proclaimed neo-Nazi organizations were encouraging younger members to join the U.S. military as a way to provide weapons training for subsequent militia activity. There was a backlash to the report — critics claimed soldiers should not be targeted as suspects by the very government they served.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the research, saying in an official statement, “The document on right-wing extremism … is an ongoing series of assessments … on the phenomenon and trends of violent radicalization in the United States.” Napolitano was sure to express appreciation to loyal veterans but concluded, “Let me be very clear: We monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We do not have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence.”

This past January, Mother Jones magazine revealed that James B. Taylor, a prominent conservative leader who once ran a white supremacist group, also had ties with the Tea Party Express — one of the largest and most influential of the Tea Party groups. Prior to his Tea Party affiliations, Taylor was vice president of the innocuously named National Policy Institute — a tax-exempt group whose aim is to lobby for white Americans. It is that kind of exemption that lies at the heart of the supposed IRS scandal.

This begs an uncomfortably obvious question: Should the kind of tax-exempt status given to religious organizations and charities be conferred upon groups with strong antigovernment ideologies and who have ties to white supremacists?