If you thought the IRS's scrutiny of Tea Party groups was bad, wait until you hear this: It also wanted more information on why "Friends of Abe," an organization of conservative Hollywood-types should be tax exempt. President Obama: Enemy of freedom and Jon Voight movies.
The plight of Hollywood conservatives is well known. Despite having marquee names like Gary Sinise and Voight and, like, Kirk Cameron on their side, in an overwhelmingly Democratic environment and state, being a Republican isn't easy. So some of them got together and formed this Friends of Abe group (a reference, The New York Times helpfully notes, to Abraham Lincoln) with the goal of supporting conservative actors, politicians, and causes.
Or, rather, not that last bit. When news broke last spring that the IRS admitted to having scrutinized the political behavior of Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status, America learned more about the weird loophole in the tax code that lets groups file under section 501(c)(4) and do some limited political work while keeping membership rolls private. The problem is that the line on "limited" is not clearly drawn, so the IRS started asking more information of groups that were commonly seeking tax-exempt status, like Tea Partiers. (Obama proposed clarifications last November.)
It looks like Friends of Abe got the same treatment, according to the Times. People familiar with an inquiry into the group "said that [its] application had been under review for roughly two years, and had at one point included a demand — which was not met — for enhanced access to the group’s security-protected website, which would have revealed member names." This is very similar to complaints from those Tea Party groups — resulting in an IRS apology that has given opponents of the administration hours and hours of Fox News chatter and hours and hours of House Oversight Committee hearings.
Friends of Abe — which wanted to protect its membership list so that its members could avoid the "sort of 21st-century blacklist" that might keep the talented Mr. Cameron from finding work — does sound pretty fun, though. The group really kicked off during a 2005 dinner at Morton's Steakhouse, when Sinise became a "leading voice," a growly, furrowed-brow leading voice. Then they began meeting with an array of conservative stars. "Officials particularly wanted to know why a speech introducing Mr. [Herman] Cain at a Friends of Abe event in November 2011 — when he was a presidential candidate — should not be regarded as potentially prohibited political campaign support," the Times reports. Clearly, "the man" is worried about a powerful Cain-Hollywood alliance. For his part, Cain dropped out of the race the next month.
In 2012, Newt Gingrich suggested that Sinise should be administrator of the VA in a Mitt Romney administration. But Romney didn't win, of course, perhaps in part because the voice of conservative Hollywood was muffled by an intrusive IRS. Imagine if a prominent Hollywood conservative had been allowed to get up and speak at the Republican National Convention, for example; if a high-profile Republican actor could have introduced Romney, made the case for his presidency. Maybe he could have used a prop. Unfortunately, this is a world that we were not lucky enough to experience.