(CNSNews.com) – Calling the tax-exempt status of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) a “charade,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said it should not qualify for 501(c)(4) status with the Internal Revenue Service, because it is not a social welfare group but political in nature.
“It’s everybody’s right to participate in politics, and well you should,” Blumenauer said on Tuesday at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing into allegations that the IRS targeted conservative organizations, including NOM. “But I think having organizations parading as being social welfare organizations and then being involved in political combat harkens back to why the (IRS 501(c)(4) statute – a hundred years ago – said that they were prohibited, and I wholeheartedly agree.”
Citing Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s (D-Texas) remarks that the statute should be reinterpreted to restrict political activities of 501(c)(4) groups, Blumenauer said the current law “invites people to raise vast sums of money and keep it secret and to engage in political activity.”
Blumenauer said NOM was founded to “stop our gay and lesbian citizens from marrying the person that they love.”
But John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University School of Law and chairman of the board for NOM and who was on the panel of witnesses at the hearing, did not let Blumenauer’s remarks go unanswered.
“I really have to respond to the scurrilous things that were said on the other side,” Eastman said. “Representative Blumenauer, it’s your kind of statement that have empowered IRS agents to make determinations about which organizations qualify for the public good and which do not.
“The notion that defending traditional marriage doesn’t qualify as a defense of the public good is beyond preposterous,” Eastman said. “And how sad it is, Rep. Doggett, how sad it is that efforts to educate about our Constitution have become a partisan political issue that you think people ought not to get tax-exempt status for that.”
In his opening statement, Eastman said the IRS had released the NOM's tax information in 2012 to the gay rights advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, and although much of the tax documents were redacted, the names of donors were left in place. The HRC posted the documents on its website, Eastman said.
The other witnesses who testified about their mistreatment by the IRS in seeking 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(3) tax status were Kevin Kookogey, president and founder of Linchpins of Liberty; Diane Belsom, president of the Laurens County Tea Party; Karen Kenney, San Fernando Valley Tea Party; Becky Gerritson, president of the Wetumpka Tea Party; and Susan Martinek, president of the Coalition for Life of Iowa.
The hearing was the latest in a series that have tried to find out who is responsible for intense IRS scrutiny of conservative groups, including pro-life, pro-marriage and religious organizations that have sought tax-exempt status.
Since the scandal erupted last month when the head of the IRS division that grants the status, Lois Lerner, apologized in public, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for initiating the inquiries. Lerner has been put on paid administrative leave, and the acting IRS Commissioner, Steven Miller, has since retired with full benefits.