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George Will misinterprets the facts in claiming ‘scandal’

George Will is at it again in his March 10 column about the “IRS scandal.”

I find it stunning that Will, that self-anointed expert on the English language, seems to be unaware of the meaning of such descriptions as “exclusively” and “primarily.” These are the words that are involved in the 501(c)(3) statute that determines whether an organization will be given the tax exemption.

To be tax exempt under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code an organization must be organized and operated “exclusively” as a social welfare organization. “It may not participate in any campaign activity for or against any political candidate.”

In 1959, the IRS incorrectly interpreted “exclusively” as “primarily.” That was the real scandal. This allowed a loophole for those who saw an opportunity to abuse the original intent of the statute, since “primarily” is an ambiguous term.

Does anyone really believe that Karl Rove’s American Crossroads groups which spent more than $300 million, or any group that has “tea party” in its name, is exclusively, or even primarily, involved with social welfare?

The reason these groups were examined by the IRS is that all groups must justify that they meet the criteria of this statute in order to qualify for the exemption.

Finally, the reason there were so many conservative organizations examined, compared to the liberal groups, was not political discrimination but simply because there were so many more conservative organizations that were applying for the exemption.

William E. Price

Grand Island