It's time to end the 501(c)(3) cover for the Left

On Tuesday, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was on the receiving end of a not so nice tweet while pushing back against a false Washington Post article.  Receiving hateful tweets is likely considered a typical Tuesday for Shapiro, but this one came at the hands of a peculiar source: the official Twitter account for Media Matters for America.

Media Matters for America is the group behind the failed boycott attempts on prominent figures within conservative media.  Similarly situated to Media Matters is the Southern Poverty Law Center.  The SPLC is a group frequently cited as a reliable source on CNN and other liberal media outlets that labels as a hate group any organization not conforming with extreme progressive ideology.

These are two of the best known organizations in politics that are used to target conservatives through the guise of objectivity.  On its website, Media Matters describes itself as a "progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media." 

The Southern Poverty Law Center claims on its website to be "dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seek justice for the most vulnerable members of our society."

The way these groups describe themselves is misleading and serves as a disguise for attacking conservatives.  They are effectively nothing more than a slimy tentacle of the Democratic Party, spewing misinformation of their own.  Both Media Matters and the SPLC make a concerted effort not to "correct misinformation" or "seek justice," but instead to silence speech that differs in any way ideologically from the far left. 

While attempting to silence political dissidents is not a novel concept on the Left these days, what should be concerning is the tax status these political organizations enjoy.  Both Media Matters for America and the Southern Poverty Law Center operate under the 501(c)(3) designation. 

The 501(c)(3) designation by the IRS allows these organizations to be exempt from paying federal taxes, and it also provides federal tax benefits to anyone who donates to them.  Any donation to a 501(c)(3) is tax-deductible. 

For the average person who will be taking a standard deduction, this doesn't matter.  But being able to receive tax-deductive donations makes having a 501(c)(3) status particularly valuable to organizations like Media Matters and the SPLC that have many potential wealthy donors in places like Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

At this point, there should be little debate that both Media Matters for America and the Southern Poverty Law Center are arms of the Democratic Party functioning in the interest of the party.  That creates a problem for both organizations under the law.

To receive and retain a 501(c)(3) status, the law provides that, among other things, that "no substantial party ... is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, and which does not participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office." 

Both organizations certainly have a skilled team of lawyers who have fought to keep their lucrative tax-exempt status, and there is no sign that is about to change.  But perhaps it's time to re-examine the activities of these organizations.

Both Media Matters and the Southern Poverty Law Center are innately political in nature. They operate primarily to levy attacks against only conservative groups and individuals, suppress conservative speech, and disparage political opponents of the Left.  Why should these organizations be allowed to continue to remain exempt from paying federal taxes and allow those who contribute to their cause to get a tax break as well?

With Democrats looking to revamp our nation's tax laws and make sure everybody pays his fair share, maybe organizations like Media Matters and the Southern Poverty Law Center will be a good place for Democrats to start.

Evan Berryhill is a former communications staffer on Capitol Hill for Rep. David McKinley.  Currently, Evan is a law student at West Virginia University and works as an opinion writer and political commentator.  You can follow him on Twitter at @EvBerryhill.

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