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A group founded by Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his fiancé Justin Mikita to support marriage equality was among those targeted for special scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service, according to newly released IRS documents.
The ongoing scandal over allegations of politically motivated probes by agents in the IRS’ Cincinnati office has dogged President Barack Obama’s administration in recent weeks, but thus far has been portrayed by Congressional Republicans as a scandal involving only conservative groups, mostly affiliated with the Tea Party. Tuesday’s release of documents, however, suggests that the scrutiny extended to other groups claiming a tax exemption as so-called 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations.
The tax code requires that such groups spend the majority of the funds they raise for educational, rather than partisan or electoral purposes. The number of groups claiming such status mushroomed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case, which overturned restrictions on corporate and private donations to so-called “independent expenditure committees.”
The extra advantage of the 501(c)(4) is that donors to their coffers can remain secret. The IRS, confronted with an avalanche of requests for such exemptions centralized review in its Midwestern office, where lower level bureaucrats were allowed to devise their own criteria for granting the requests.
The tax collection agency has admitted that such groups “unfortunately experienced inappropriate delays and over-expansive information requests in some cases.”
Ferguson and Mikita’s group is called Tie the Knot and raises funds to support same-sex marriage by selling designer bow ties over the Internet. It was launched in September 2011, and ultimately received a tax exemption last January, according to the IRS.
Neither Ferguson nor Mikita were available for comment.
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