February 20, 2014

JAMES TARANTO: Unions vs. Democrats: A difference of opinion about IRS suppression of speech.

All the opponents Johnson quotes are leaders of one or another type of nonprofit and thus have an institutional interest in minimizing IRS restriction–though in the case of 501(c)(3)s, (5)s and (6)s, the interest is indirect. For a political party, by contrast, the paramount interest is winning elections.

The disagreement between Democratic politicians and unions is especially illuminating. Generally speaking, there is a confluence of interest between unions (especially public-sector ones like the SEIU) and Democratic politicians. The unions help elect Democrats, who help maintain and enhance union power, which enables them to help elect Democrats, and so on.

Yet confluent interests are not identical ones. Politicians are interested in winning elections; unions are interested in acquiring and maintaining power; and for each, helping the other is a means to an end. In the proposed 501(c)(4) regulations, the Democrats evidently see an opportunity to help win elections (or at least lose fewer of them) this fall. The unions see a precedent that could pose a long-term threat to their interests.

Read the whole thing.