Whether the organization is liberal or conservative or anything else is irrelevant; what is critical is that the IRS is supposed to monitor applications to assure there is a truly charitable center to the applicant's purposes.

If the IRS singled out only conservative organizations, that would be wrong; but if it were correct that the laws were being perverted, the IRS would be right to scrutinize them.

It may be that the IRS abused its screening powers, and it has not stated it was not focusing on just conservative groups. That it hasn't made this case suggests that was not the case. But if it was the case that the IRS was policing the misuse by all applicant groups of the 501(c)(4) laws, officials ought to say so and defend the practice.

Ronald Goldfarb is a Washington, D.C., and Miami-based attorney, literary agent and author of 11 books.

— Updated at 5:15 p.m. A previous version misidentified the type of nonprofit organizations that received extra scrutiny.