Reid urges Congress to crack down on 'masquerading' political groups

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday said the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should not unfairly target political groups, but also urged Congress to scrutinize those trying to influence elections while posing as social-welfare organizations.

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Reid offered the IRS some political cover by arguing that the government should review political groups "masquerading" as social welfare organizations. He turned his sights on GOP strategist Karl Rove, who raised tens of millions of dollars in the 2012 election cycle to defeat Democratic candidates.

“We do not know exactly how much money was spent in the last election by these groups and I acknowledge most of the money was spent on the right wing but there was plenty on the left wing,” he said.

Reid said Rove has tried to influence elections by insincerely posing as a social welfare group.

“I ask what [has] Karl Rove ever done to improve the social welfare of the United States?” Reid added. “Rove’s organizations have one purpose and one purpose only and that is to defeat Democrats. Anyone who thinks otherwise is being willfully foolish.”

Reid said Democrats pushed the Disclose Act in 2010, which would have taken the IRS out of the business of investigating these groups, and not a single Republican supported it.

“Where was the outrage of the Republicans then?” he said. “We should take another look at the Disclose Act. While we must stop these abuses by the IRS, we must also crack down on efforts by Karl Rove and others to exploit our tax code and pour unlimited amounts of money into our political system masquerading as social welfare.”

Reid said groups classified under section 501(c)4 of the tax code should devote themselves to social welfare activity but many political advocacy groups are spending most of their resources on influencing elections.

Reid, however, castigated as "inexcusable" the targeting of conservative political groups by the IRS.

He also accused Republicans of hypocrisy for staying relatively silent about past efforts by the IRS to target the NAACP, Greenpeace and the liberal All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif.

“It was interesting at that time we didn’t hear a single Republican grandstand the issue then. Where was their outrage when groups on the other side of the political spectrum were under attack,” he said.

Reid said Congress needs to take action to stop these types of investigations by the IRS and noted that he discussed on Tuesday morning the need for hearings with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who has jurisdiction over tax issues.

Reid noted the targeting of Tea Party groups happened under a Republican appointee, Doug Shulman.