Category Archives: Politics

IRS plays dead on campaign finance

Any small business that has been audited knows the IRS can be a junkyard dog when examining records for deductible meals, travel, mileage, and other business expenses.

Not so when it comes to reviewing political organizations.

As The New York Times summarizes, the IRS has pretty much rolled over on groups that use nonprofit “social welfare” organizations to hide the identities of potentially multi-million-dollar campaign contributors.

Not only did IRS Commissioner John Koskinen tell Congress that there would be no change in the tax code this year, he also said any new rules would take effect only after the 2016 Presidential Election.

Campaign spending by so-called “social welfare” organizations has gone from less than $6 million in 2006 to more than $300 million in 2012, and is likely to eclipse a half-billion dollars in 2016.

As The Times’ article concludes, “It is a gross insult to taxpayers to make them underwrite the brazen evasions of campaign operatives bundling dark money. The abuse is compounded by the latest I.R.S. retreat from its responsibility.”

Hastert and FIFA cases prove the oldest rule in the book: Follow the money!

What does Dennis Hastert’s indictment on apparently Very Very Bad Horrible Terrible Behavior (kudos to Kaili Joy Gray of Wonkette) and the FIFA bribery and kickback scandal (New York Times version here) have in common? They both in part involve people charged with trying to hide or disguise transfers of money—something that is of tremendous…Continue Reading

How your tax $$$ subsidize Walmart & McDonald’s

One more reason fast-food and other low-wage businesses are happy with the status quo on minimum wage: Your tax dollars help subsidize their chintzy wages, which often leave their workers on public assistance. As detailed in a University of California study and reported in The New York Times, around half of all home health care…Continue Reading

Joe’s op-ed in The Oregonian opposes Portland “street tax”

Here in Portland, the City Council is proposing a street fee in the form of a local income tax. I started adding up some of the fundamental problems I saw with the proposal, and wrote an op-ed for The Oregonian, “Eight Problems With Portland’s Proposed Street Tax.” The phrase, “the wheels have been greased on…Continue Reading

Multinationals seek tax heavens, er, havens . . . oh, what’s the diff?

More and more U.S.-based corporations are growing wings and flying away from their U.S. tax obligations. Bloomberg puts it as simply as possible: “U.S. companies looking for lower tax bills are heading for the exits, and Congress is doing nothing to stop them.” The immediate impetus for the story was Pfizer’s proposed purchase of AstraZeneca,…Continue Reading

Washington Post’s maps paint a fascinating – and unexpected – picture of the USA

The Washington Post’s “GovBeat” feature is doing some great work, including this story and link to 25 maps and charts of the United States (your first 10 stories a month at are free; then the paywall rises up.) One, “Finding America’s Uninsured,” (#23) shows that the national problem of people not having health insurance…Continue Reading

For privileged corporations, paying state taxes is increasingly becoming a thing of the past

States regularly offer tax incentives (or, depending on your point of view, corporate welfare) to major corporations in exchange for promises of expansion, corporate relocation, retention of old jobs, creation of new jobs, and anything else with the word ‘jobs’ in the sentence. If you think about it, it’s an almost mindless rush to the…Continue Reading

Food stamp cut passes House; why should “the takers” eat?

The House of Representatives in September passed, on an almost party-line vote, a bill slashing $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps, Read about it in the New York Times. The vote may have marked a new high, or low, in mean-spirited political gamesmanship. If this bill survives…Continue Reading

The real IRS tax-exempt scandal is who they DIDN’T go after

The rolling sideshow of hearings and revelations about the IRS department responsible for reviewing organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status might not ever get around to dealing with a larger question: Why were some little organizations steamrolled with questions and scrutiny, while major national operations apparently got a pass? As ProPublica pointed out in a…Continue Reading