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David Freddoso: The only thing we have to overreach is overreach itself

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"There's one word that best describes the GOP's efforts in May: overreach."

Thus read last Friday's memo from Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Michael Czin, citing nine instances of the word cropping up in media reports from the previous week. His memo may have helped spawn a slew of new "overreach" articles that appeared the following Monday.

Republicans, the line goes, are "overreaching" as they investigate the IRS' proven and admitted harassment and stalling of conservative nonprofit applicants. But is it true?

The Fix, the Washington Post's widely read blog, cited polling this week that shows the public is pretty comfortable with how Republicans have conducted themselves so far. Perhaps that's because media mentions of "overreach" do not translate to overreach in real life.

The IRS certainly overreached. The tax collection agency tried to discourage and prevent the incorporation of conservative nonprofits through endless probing and foot-dragging.

And if there's any overreach in Congress at this moment, it is that of some Democratic members who are creating excuses for the targeting, defending the agency against its victims.

Various Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, have attributed IRS harassment to the legal vagueness surrounding permissible activities for 501c(4) advocacy groups -- as if this were the problem, and not the (again, admitted) deliberate singling out of conservative applicants.

IRS defenders, while not explicitly defending the targeting, have also repeatedly invoked the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision of 2010.

Secret, big money was about to overwhelm our democracy! What else could the IRS have done?

But this ignores the reality. On Tuesday, representatives of six targeted conservative groups shared their stories before the House Ways and Means Committee.

Their testimony and previous reporting have shown that nearly all of those harassed and put to great expense by the IRS were ultra-low budget, grass-roots advocacy groups that lacked resources to fight the tax agency.

In the real world, just 10 big nonprofits account for 80 percent of 501c(4) political spending. None of those groups was scrutinized.

And far from seeking a "subsidy" from taxpayers, as liberal Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., alleged during Tuesday's hearing, the conservatives targeted by the IRS were merely trying to fund their own advocacy in the only way the tax code reasonably allows.

Section 501c of the IRS code is the only resort for most Americans who wish to combine their private resources lawfully to advocate a cause -- otherwise, they would have to pay (or shirk) double taxes on their donations. Contributions to 501c(4) groups are not tax-deductible.

McDermott was just one of several Democrats to offer justifications for IRS behavior, and by no means the worst. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, offered a little-noticed paean to the IRS on Monday, so riddled with factual errors that it suggested she doesn't even read newspapers, let alone inspector general reports. Kaptur suggested the agency has erred in admitting any wrongdoing, and that "the American people ought to take a second look at this."

"[M]aybe somebody over there at IRS was actually doing their job," Kaptur said. She added: "If you're really trying to figure out who secret donors are, and if an organization is really a 501c(4) and not overstepping its boundaries under the spirit of the law, maybe there might be some delays."

Overreach, perhaps, considering she's talking about a three-year investigation of an Alabama Tea Party group with perhaps a $10,000 annual budget. But the media have taken little heed of this true congressional clown show.

MSNBC's feisty Lawrence O'Donnell even took to Twitter on Tuesday night to accuse the IRS victims who had testified that day of lying to Congress: "Why didn't Issa put Tea Party witnesses under oath? He knew they were gonna lie about 'tyranny' etc."

O'Donnell (supposedly an expert on Congress) quickly deleted this tweet after being informed by others that Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is not chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

But his errant jab offers a nice glimpse into the real overreach going on now -- an effort by smug liberals in Congress, and even some in the media, to shield the mighty IRS from the little people it has wronged.

Examiner Columnist David Freddoso is editor of the Conservative Intelligence Briefing.

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