(Editor's note: This article submitted by Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and first appeared in Huffington Post.)
Today, I sat through hours of testimony with groups named "Coalition for Life of Iowa," "Linchpins of Liberty" and the "National Organization for Marriage" about their political activities being questioned by the Internal Revenue Service.
I wholeheartedly agree that no group or individual should be persecuted by the IRS for their beliefs. The actions of the individual IRS agents who engaged in this behavior were wrong. But there is a much larger issue here and we should take a step back to see why this might have occurred.
Employees at the IRS should never have been put in a position to decide which organizations are political and which are not. Their job is to collect revenue for the federal government. But, in an era of undisclosed donors and shadowy Super PACs, Congress has put the IRS in an untenable position with no clear guidelines.
Congress should change the law so that groups engaged in political activity actually have to disclose their donors. If a group wants to take a position on a highly-charged issue like same-sex marriage or run ads bashing the Affordable Care Act, that is its right, but it should have to register as a political organization, not a social welfare organization.
Let's get real and stop the charade about what a "social welfare" organization is.
Last year, internal National Organization for Marriage (NOM) strategy documents were leaked, stating that the organization seeks "to drive a wedge between gays and blacks" by promoting "African American spokespeople for marriage," thus provoking same-sex marriage supporters into "denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots," and "to interrupt the assimilation" of Latinos into "dominant Anglo culture" by making the stance against same-sex marriage "a key badge of Latino identity."
Does this sound like social welfare to you?
Social welfare organizations should work in the public interest -- not to divide, exploit, and conquer.
When I brought this up at the hearing today, Dr. Eastman, Chairman of the Board of NOM, angrily groused, "To say that defending traditional marriage doesn't qualify for defense of the public good is beyond preposterous."
To Dr. Eastman, I say that it is the denial of my constituents, and all Americans, the right to marry the person they love is preposterous. To exploit racial and religious differences so you can fundraise for and enforce your specific worldview is preposterous.
But your right to be preposterous should not extend to taking political positions under the guise of a social welfare organization, raising money and campaigning.
We all agree the IRS was wrong to target specific groups. But political organizations like the National Organization for Marriage can't have it both ways. If they want to engage in politics, that is their right, and they should register accordingly. But NOM's mission couldn't be farther from promoting social welfare -- and looking at the polls and recent ballot box victories, citizens across the country are proving that they agree.
It's time we all stopped engaging in this preposterous charade and got down to the business of fixing this broken system.
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