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How Boehner helped create IRS scandal 13 years ago

The political powers the IRS was recently accused of abusing to harass Tea Party groups were given to it against its will by Congress -- including some of the agency's biggest critics today -- over 10 years ago, according to documents and a former senior tax official. The revelation, which has been missing in most if not all of the commentary on the scandal, adds a key bit of context to it.

In an half-measure effort to strengthen campaign finance disclosure laws in 2000, Congress put the IRS, effectively for the first time, in the awkward position of having to make judgment calls about whether non-profit advocacy groups would be required to disclose their donors because too much of their activities crossed the theoretical line between “issues advocacy” and “political campaign intervention.” It's a messy and inherently subjective business, and something officials did not want to get more involved in, predicting it would lead to exactly the kind of controversy we just witnessed. "The IRS would inevitably be subject to claims of discrimination and political bias for actions taken or not taken," an internal memo from the Treasury Department's office of Tax Policy sent June 2000 and obtained by Salon reads.

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