Soros-Funded News Operation Helped Build IRS Case Against Tea Party

May 30th, 2013 2:52 PM

While the IRS targeting of conservative groups was still heating up in 2012, a Soros-funded journalism nonprofit was helping fan the flames. The Pulitzer-Prize-winning ProPublica released two stories targeting conservative nonprofits including Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

ProPublica was founded by prominent Democratic contributor and has direct connections to some of the nation’s top news organizations from The New York Times to ABC News. ProPublica was also the organization that received leaked IRS tax forms of conservative groups. ProPublica admitted “they should not have been sent to us before they were approved.”

Reporter Kim Barker wrote both articles criticizing conservative nonprofits and even went on CBS to detail that criticism. In her first story, she criticized two conservative organizations and no liberal groups. “Campaign-finance reform advocates say the spending by the two organizations highlights the role anonymous money is playing in this election, which will be the most expensive in history,” she wrote.

The second story criticized 14 right-leaning nonprofits and just one left-leaning nonprofit. Barker’s Aug. 18, 2012, article admitted that both major political parties were aggressively pursuing 501(c)(4) organizations, but her reporting focused on conservatives. “In recent years, Democrats and Republicans alike have seized on that seemingly innocuous wording to create the darkest corner of American political fundraising,” she wrote. The story then followed with paragraph after paragraph devoted to Republican-backed nonprofits.

Barker interviewed Fred Wertheimer, president of the Soros-funded group Democracy 21, for that piece. She called the organization “a watchdog group that has filed repeated complaints about 501(c)(4)s to regulators.” In fact, the group filed complaints about conservative nonprofits to the IRS. Those complaints coincided with policy changes made by the IRS that targeted conservative and Tea Party related 501(c)(4)s. Democracy 21 has received $365,000 from Soros since 2000.

CBS’s Bob Schieffer interviewed Barker on “Face the Nation” on Aug. 19, 2012. She complained that political groups, especially conservative ones, were trying to mask themselves as nonprofits. She explained that, “in effect, you can find a way to get out of paying these taxes.”

Barker also showed sympathy for … the IRS. “If you're the IRS and your primary goal is collecting revenue, do you really want to spend all your time chasing these nonprofits? I mean it's a huge problem. And nobody is actually – the thing I find is that nobody is actually talking about it. It's just sort of accepted this is the way it is.”

Schieffer seemed appalled at that picture she painted of nonprofits evading IRS scrutiny, concluding the segment with “that’s an eye opener.”

Barker wrote five more IRS stories in 2013. On May 22, 2013, she co-wrote an article for ProPublica rationalized the IRS’s actions, in which she claimed that “[m]ost of the money spent on elections by social welfare nonprofits supports Republicans.”

Barker has worked for ProPublica since 2010. She previously wrote for The Washington Post, as well as for openly liberal outlets The Atlantic and Salon.

ProPublica began operations in 2008 with funding from the liberal Sandler Foundation. According to The New York Times it was “the creation of Herbert M. and Marion O. Sandler, the former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation.” The billionaire Sandlers “committed $10 million a year to the project.”

In addition to the Sandler millions, ProPublica has received $300,000 from liberal billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Neither connection was mentioned during the CBS interview.

The Sandlers have also been major donors to the Democratic Party. The Times called them “major Democratic political donors and critics of President Bush.” Since 2008, Herbert Sandler has donated $222,700 to candidates and campaign committees. Every penny has gone to Democrats, according to

There are several different references for either “Marion Sandler” or “Marion O. Sandler” in Opensecrets. The occupations listed include “philanthropist,” “World Savings Bank and Loan” and “homemaker.” It is unclear if every one of them is the same Marion Sandler, but the total donated was $106,700 and again all went to Democrats.

The Sandlers’ nonprofit ProPublica is a 501(c)(3) that operates “a newsroom of about 40 working journalists, all of them dedicated to investigative reporting on stories with significant potential for major impact.” Some of the biggest names in journalism serve on its advisory board, including:

  • Jill Abramson, executive editor, The New York Times;
  • David Gergen, professor of public service, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of its Center for Public Leadership, and CNN political analyst;
  • Tom Goldstein, director, Media Studies Program, University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
  • Isaac Lee, president, news, Univision;

While the first reports of extra IRS scrutiny for conservative groups began in Cincinnati in March 2010, the targeting began to pick up steam on a national level soon after Soros-funded groups began firing off letters to the IRS in October of that year - following the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.