Wholesale use of the words "outrage" and "scandal" regarding actions of Internal Revenue Service personnel with respect to the handling of applications by "conservative groups" ("Ex-IRS Chief on the Hot Seat: Outrage Evident at Congressional Hearing Into Scandal Surrounding Tax Agency," May 18) obscures the legitimate issues surrounding 501(c)(4) status.
A 501(c)(4) group's primary purpose must be social welfare if the group is to be entitled to the privileges -- tax exemption and secrecy of donors -- accorded by that status. IRS employees are doing their job when they try to ascertain whether each applicant group's primary purpose is social welfare, or whether the claim of social welfare is a mask to cover a primary political end.
When a group uses the word "Tea Party" in its name, it is a reasonable presumption that it is primarily a political, and not a social welfare, group. For instance if a "book club's" reading list consists entirely of primers on how to lobby the government, the details of that list are relevant to the IRS' evaluation of the group's application.
A political movement like the Tea Party is inherently political. The current brouhaha is likewise political, and citizens are being deliberately deceived about what the underlying issues are.
We all need a civics course, but failing that, it is disappointing to see the irresponsibility of and sensationalizing by the media in its reporting on this matter. Perhaps the real solution to the murkiness of 501(c)(4) is to eliminate this confusing category for all groups.