The Wall Street Journal wrote an excellent article on the professional left’s arguments for going after non-profits with which they disagree:
It isn’t easy defending politicized tax enforcement, but our liberal friends are up to the job. The real IRS scandal, they say, is the use by conservatives of 501(c) tax status as a shield for political advocacy.
This chorus is echoing across the liberal establishment, and Democrats used last week’s Senate IRS hearing to complain that “a Mack truck is being driven through the 501(c)(4) loophole,” as Montana’s Max Baucus put it. We appreciate that liberals have so burdened the tax code with rules and exceptions that even they can’t understand them. So allow us to offer a primer on 501(c) tax law.
Congress wrote the 501(c) code to provide tax-exempt status to a broad range of groups. While so-called social-welfare organizations are the current object of Democratic ire, the code covers 28 categories of organizations. So 501(c)(3) groups include charities and educational institutions. The 501(c)(4) category covers social-welfare groups. The 501(c)(6) label includes trade associations and chambers of commerce. And there is the Democratic favorite: 501(c)(5)s, or labor unions.
These categories have different requirements, and a few impose stricter rules if organizations want to claim tax-exempt status. Charitable 501(c)(3) groups, for instance, are barred from partisan campaign activities. That hasn’t stopped Media Matters for America, the left-wing agitprop outfit, from claiming 501(c)(3) status for its daily attacks on conservatives.