WASHINGTON - A committee examining the IRS' targeting of conservative groups should also study the problem of organizations seeking nonprofit status and then engaging in political activity at taxpayers' expense, a West Virginia senator said.
"Make no mistake, when groups that engage in partisan activity receive non-profit status, taxpayers end up subsidizing political campaigns," Sen. Jay Rockefeller said. "That's a result we should all be able to agree is completely unacceptable."
Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is a member of the Senate Finance Committee and made the comments in a hearing on the criteria used by the IRS to determine non-profit 501(c)(4) designations. Recent revelations the agency targeted conservative political groups such as tea party organizations in Cincinnati has been denounced by the president and congressmen.
Rockefeller encouraged the committee to thoroughly look into problems at the IRS and the impact from cuts in funding.
"There is a lot of blame to go around here. Impermissible criteria were used that could have the effect of unfairly targeting groups of one particular viewpoint," Rockefeller told the committee. "That is not the whole story though."
The Cincinnati office was struggling under an increasing workload and its requests to the Washington office for additional guidance in the wake of Citizens United were not adequately answered, Rockefeller said.
"Groups, conservative and liberal alike, that truly met the standards set forth in 501(c) had their applications delayed unnecessarily," he said.
However, 501(c) does not clearly describe when a group is engaging in permissible political activity from impermissible campaign intervention, he said.
"That is our job, especially for the members of this committee, to fix," Rockefeller said.