I had more or less concluded that I was done with writing about the IRS screening of applicants for tax exempt 501(c)(4) status--mainly because it was so obvious that the right-wingers inside and outside Congress were using this fake scandal to try to stir up even more "government is the problem" and "taxes are bad" angst amongst ordinary folks who mostly don't have a clue how tax-exempt status works, why the IRS has to screen C4 applicants, or what would or would not constitute inappropriate targeting.
I've said all along that selecting terms like "patriot" or "tea party" or "progressive" would be reasonably linked to an expectation that a great deal of the group's activity would be political and not "social welfare." And in a regime where the IRS decades ago foolishly interpreted "exclusive" to mean "not primarily", there needed to be some kind of reasonably accurate mechanism for picking out the groups most likely to be engaged in lots of political activity and maybe not so much social welfare activity.
There are always a few right-wingers who comment on the posts (and/or to me privately) to say that they are sure I wouldn't be so supportive of the IRS If the IRS had used a word like "progressive" to screen applicants. I've responded that I think it would be entirely appropriate, and that I would guess that they did in fact use terms for liberal groups, since more of the groups selected for stricter scrutiny appeared to be on the left end of the spectrum rather than the right end. But, nonetheless, the GOPers in Congress and their supporters have continued to repeat the word "scandal" within 2 of "IRS" day after day after day. Paul Caron (not a left-winger) has had a running tabulator for anything about the IRS listing Day XXXX of the IRS Scandal on Tax Prof, even after various profs have said "enough with that."
So perhaps it is fitting that the IRS has disclosed that it used several progressive terms to help screen applications: progressive, Israel, and occupy were used. Those are as clearly identified with the left as "tea party" and "patriot" are with the right. That means--as I've insisted all along--that the IRS wasn't really using inappropriate criteria that one-sidedly targeted conservative groups. Instead, it was using terms that it thought likely to screen out those groups more likely to be involved in political activity. Tea Party groups have been quite visibly highly political and involved in campaigning. Progressive groups also. Both of those screening terms seem appropriate to me.
Now, the new leader of the IRS (not yet the commissioner) has said the IRS will also fast-track any groups that have suffered delays so long as they vouch that they will not spend more than 40% of their resources/volunteer efforts on politicking. So we see that the right has gained one of the things it wanted--a clear cut safe harbor for a considerable amount of politicking under a "social welfare" rubrick that lets it keep its political campaign donations a secret.
Is this a good thing? I don't think so. What should happen is that Congress should legislate in this area. Social Welfare should mean no more than a de minimis (which I'd define at less than 10% of resources/ volunteer time) resources spent on politicking of any kind. Any group that spends more than a de minimis amount of its resources (cash, in-kind, volunteer or official services) for politicking should be required to apply for 527 status and disclose all donors. Alternatively any group that does any politicking whatsoever should have to reveal all donors and amounts donated.