Tea Party Groups May Be Too Political For IRS Comfort, But Here's How OFA Defines Itself

501(c)4s aren't supposed to promote political candidates, but what else is OFA about?


“Tea party” and “patriot” were among a list of keywords meant to net Constitutional and conservative-minded 501(c)4 applicants that might not meet the criteria. So what’s a model “social welfare” group look like?

Here’s how Organizing for Action (a 501(c)4 and successor to Obama for America) defines itself:

The video was sent out by OFA today and posted on, which is operated by OFA.  But 501(c)4’s aren’t supposed to be about politicians, theoretically, but about issues. Yet there’s not much in the video in the  way of substance. How many keywords for the IRS can you come up with? Change? Moving Forward?

Just more anecdotal evidence that the IRS needs to get out of the regulating political speech business altogether. No matter how refined the mandate, the agency is always far more likely to target groups outside the political mainstream and in the opposition than fan clubs of power like OFA.

Flag your own keywords below.

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  1. I don’t see how you get the IRS out of this business without getting rid of the charitable deduction, something neither side is going to do. As long as charitable deductions exist, you have to figure out what is a charity and what is a political organization.

    You could I suppose make political donation tax deductible.

    1. You could I suppose make political donation tax deductible.

      I always found it a bit odd that it wasn’t.

      1. No.

        1. Okay, I’m willing to compromise. Keep one old lady who processes Auric’s voluntary donations to the U.S. treasury. That’s it.

          1. Fuck you.

            1. I’m all for cutting spending, of course, but starving the beast at the same time works, too.

              Oh, and no more deficit spending. Sorry.

              1. I need to make my setups for you less subtle. And I even spelled them correctly this time.

                But in serious discussion, I agree that a flat tax makes so much more sense.

                1. No, but you’ve stumbled upon a marketing message. Burma Shave “No, fuck you, cut spending.”

                  Ideally, we could flash the phrase on the Moon, with a giant laser. One word at a time.

                  1. What size is the Moon’s media market?

                    1. I was thinking more the Moon as a billboard but, in truth, I don’t think anyone has ever surveyed the Moon’s population. Except maybe the secret Nazi base, but it’s, well, secret.

                    2. I got that, I was including everyone that can see it as part of it’s media market since they are in range of the broadcast.

                    3. I got that, I was including everyone that can see it as part of it’s media market since they are in range of the broadcast.

                    4. The moon, like my comments, is visible from a variety of places.

                    5. it was secret. Thanks for letting the cat out of the bag. I’m sure the Fuhrer’s head will give out the order to liquidate you.

                    6. Astronomical!

                  2. Someone (Frederic Brown?) wrote a story about astronomers freaking out when the stars started moving. When they plotted the expected trajectories, they were horrified to discover that they were going to rearrange themselves to spell out an ad slogan for soap. Some crazy scientist inventor (but I repeat myself) came up with a way to alter the light path down to the Earth’s surface and sold it to a soap company.

                    Anybody game to fund me for this?

    2. My understanding is donations to 501(c)4s, though, are generally not tax deductible. So it’s really all about tax exemptions, something political groups should be able to just get.

      1. I heard for the first time yesterday that at least some 501(c)(3)s were also victims of this enhanced interrogation.

        1. 501(c)3s have it really tough because they’re not allowed to do any political advocacy at all. But sometimes neighborhood associations have to do just that to advance their agendas. The whole thing out to be simplified with a bias toward less rules and restrictions

      2. Okay. But then what is the point of getting the distinction if not to have donations to you be tax deductible? What is the advantage?

        1. That you don’t have to pay tax on the donations your group collects. Not having to disclose donors is also helpful, but that probably ought to be extended to all the groups

          1. although (c)(4)s are taxed on income that is used for political purposes.

      3. I think there’s also an issue of donor anonymity involved.

        1. I’m not laughing at you, Hazel, but I’m laughing.

  2. “We must move forward, we must keep progressing towards tyranny, and we will not rest until all individual liberty has been extinguished.”

    1. At least they’re moving FORWARD, not staying stuck in the past!

  3. NAACP and leftist clergy men* in my state are explicitly protesting the GOP in Raleigh fall under the same category of non taxation as well.

    * reeking of such asshole levels of special privilege came up with ‘Moral Wednesdays’ where they protest proposed budget and public employee cuts in the name of Jeebus. Did they ever read what that guy had to say about the tax man?

    1. in my state who are explicitly protesting the GOP

    2. As usual, we can be pretty sure no one’s missing a day of work for these events–either they don’t have a job, or this is their job.

  4. I’d like to see OFA stage a “Gun Violence Prevention” event in Camden.

  5. Holy crap. Having watched the video, how can they still have 501(c)4 status? They aren’t even trying to make it about anything besides Obama.

    SLD: I don’t think nonprofits should be prevented from endorsing candidates, but that’s the rule they are subjected conservative nonprofits to.

    1. The rule is they are supposed to not be “primarily political”. They made that rule so that charitable organizations still have a right to free speech. It is literally a 51-49 rule. I would like to know what these people do that isn’t political. Anything?

      1. Supporting Obama isn’t political. It’s just common sense for non-racists.

        1. Look guys, we have something called freedom of religion in this country.

          1. Right, you’re free to be an atheist, or to believe that Obama is the Messiah.

            1. What I mean is that support of Obama is religious, not political. So it’s exempt.

    2. Here’s another benefit to a truly flat tax–no one is exempt. At least, they shouldn’t be.

  6. The IRS should get out of the robbery business, which means they should be shut down.

  7. OfA is for Social Justice! Are you guys dense?

    1. It is not their fault that being pro social justice necessarily means supporting Obama.

  8. being pro social justice necessarily means supporting Obama.

    Fish gotta swim, dude.

  9. Now I get it. People want the designation so they don’t have to screw with corporate income taxes. So, if we would just repeal corporate income taxes, no one would have to mess with being “non profit” and the IRS would be out of the who can and cannot have political speech business.

    1. I’ve long thought that the flat tax should be a flat tax across the board, for individuals, businesses, what have you. The savings in tax compliance would be Homeric in scope.

      1. It is hard to have a “business” flat tax. What do you tax? Profit? Well what constitutes profit? Those are hard questions. We would be better off to give up taxing businesses altogether and have either a national sales tax or a flat income tax. There are a lot of problems with a sales tax. I would just have an income tax and call it a day.

        1. I’d be okay with that, too. Accounting shenanigans are an issue with any tax scheme. Even for individuals.

        2. Income should not be taxed because you’re left with no choice. Consumption above some amount that is absolutely necessary for survival is a choice. That’s why I prefer the idea of replacing the income tax with a consumption tax.

          Of course it wouldn’t take any time before the consumption tax was amended for the benefit of special interests, like making this exempt and that taxed extra, and become a tool of social engineering as the income tax is today.

          For example here in Maine many things are not subject to sales tax. Things like groceries and heating oil. Every year the Democrats try to expand the sales tax, saying the extra revenue will come from tourists and be used to lower the state income tax, and every year people see right through their bullshit. They’re doing it again as we speak. Last time it took a citizen ballot initiative to kill it. This year we’ve got a Republican governor to kill it. But they’re relentless. They won’t stop. Ever.

          1. It may seem weird that I oppose the Dems trying to expand sales tax at the expense of the income tax, but it’s simply because I don’t trust them. They’ll expand the sales tax, and next year raise the income tax to where it was or higher, leaving everyone with less money to buy more expensive groceries and heating oil.

            1. That’s why it’s a really bad idea to have BOTH an income tax and a consumption (sales) tax. You can play games like giving people a break by lowering one while you actually just screw them by raising the other one proportionally that much more. It’s like what happens with property taxes, where you can lower the mill rate but raise evaluations, or vice versa. Just pick one scheme and stick with it.

          2. They are the Deminator?

          3. I think income should be taxed at a low flat rate because it has less of a distortive effect on the economy. Once you go to spend or save, you have already paid your taxes so it the taxes don’t affect your decision. The problem with a sales tax is as you said it would quickly be hijacked by special interests. It would also quickly be raised to such a point that it would distort the economy to artificially rearward savings over consumption.

            1. What’s wrong with emphasizing savings over consumption? A greater amount of savings is simply going to free up more funds for investment and make credit more available.

              As for hijacking consumption taxes, they could simply make it “no exceptions,” period. The “Fair Tax” plan I read about proposed something like a sales tax rebate to everyone on the first $10,000 or some similar amount they spend. The idea is that if you’re poor, you’ll get back the sales tax you put in on stuff like food and medicine, but no breaks for people buying a car, or a boat or whatever.

        3. “Those are hard questions.” Fine. Let the corporations duke it out with congresscritters, and such. They can afford that lobbying, and they can afford to pay accountants figure out the complex tax code. It’s not impinging on personal liberties at all. Businesses are not necessarily corporations. If you don’t want to play ball, keep your enterprise private.

      2. The more logical response would be to not tax the corporate form. Tax distributions to individuals, but leave the form free of tax. That way, you don’t have to worry about the accounting or the status as for profit or not for profit.

    2. it is generally considered hard ™ to operate a nonprofit entitiy (c)(3) or (c)(4) without using all the money you raise in a year.

      To the point where when I was submitting 1023 forms to get (c)(3) status and indicated that I wanted to raise funds in a lump sum and use them over two years, the lawyer I retained nearly had a brain anyeurism, and tried to get me to make my ‘planned budget’ look more like a traditional nonprofit. I finally told him that I wasn’t willing to fudge the numbers that badly, redid the projected balance to show little funds carrying balance after two years, and told him that I would deal with the IRS when they call me with questions.

      I’m trying to decide if it’s a bad thing or a good thing that one of my board members was targetted by the IRS in the past.

  10. “Public Interest”

    Go lookup the network of “Public Interest Research Groups” (PIRGs for short), and notice how progressive organization have been using tax-exempt status to advocate for their preferred politics for decades.

    It seems as if you can get tax-exempt status easily enough as a left wing activist group as long as you’re careful not to explicitly endorse any politicans.

    1. Even if you run a website with their name as the domain name?

      1. Maybe that’s why they changed it.
        One has to maintain at least a few token trappings of non-partisanship.

  11. I’ve long thought that the flat tax should be a flat tax across the board, for individuals, businesses, what have you.

    I just had this conversation a little while ago; exempt the first twenty, or twenty five, or fifty thousand, and then ~3% tax on every additional dollar of income from any source. No corporate income tax, it all passes through. If that doesn’t raise enough revenue to fund the wish list, FUCK YOU, CUT SPENDING.

    1. [Lo Pan voice]Indeed![/Lo Pan voice]

    2. ^^THIS^^

      And tax all income equally.

    3. How about a flat corporate income tax and no personal income tax? And no, it’s not a “tax on business”. If you don’t like it, don’t incorporate. Corporations != business.

  12. Some notes:

    NYPIRG is a 501(c)3.
    501(c)3 organizations are strictly prohibited from endorsing political candidates or lobbying.

    Here’s how Wikipedia describes the PIRGs:
    In the United States, Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) are non-profit organizations that employ grassroots organizing, direct advocacy, investigative journalism, and litigation to affect public policy.

    So, how exactly is “grassroots organizing”, “direct advocacy”, etc. not “lobbying”?…..arch_Group

    Ralph Nader actually wrote the book on this.

    1. lobbying is specifically spending money to petition congressfolk or administration officials. Letters Amici Curiae to the supreme court are not lobbying, for example. Nor is doing voting drives (that’s electioneering).

  13. Moreover, if a 501(c)3 like NYPIRG can engage in “grassroots organizing” and “direct advocacy”, how is it that a Tea Party group is forbidden from doing the same thing. As long as the Tea Party group isn’t explicitly endorsing politicians how is what they are doing any different?

  14. The company I worked for down in DC was primarily a 501(c)3, but had a 501(c)4 arm for lobbying and such. I thought that 4’s could lobby. Unless they were doing some blatantly illegal things.

    1. C4s can absolutely lobby. It’s their primary purpose and is directly provided for in the tax code. The code says that this activity is supposed to be aimed at “social welfare,” but with no definition provided.

      Most larger nonprofits have a C3 “educational” arm and a C4 “action” arm. In practice, the two are indistinguishable, sharing staff and resources.

      1. Thanks for clearing that up for me. I was a little confused.

        And yeah, the separation between our C3 and C4 arms amounted to an excel spreadsheet and “grants”.

  15. if anyone wants to spend about $1000 to start a shitstorm, do a FOIA on all emails that contain the words “Tea Party” and “Patriot”.

    1. Will that $1000 get you the secret ones too?

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