The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Delta Caucus Denounces IRS Targeting of Tea Party: May 31, 2013

Posted on May 31, 2013 at 10:57 AM

As a private sector advocacy organization, the Delta Grassroots Caucus denounces the IRS officials who targeted the Tea Party and other conservative groups, on the grounds that if a federal agency can target any groups based on their political beliefs and activities then all other private sector advocacy organizations are not safe.

Many of our partners expressed deep concerns about the IRS targeting any group based on their political beliefs and activities, leading us to draft this statement.

We will resume our series of articles highlighting additional information about the May 2-3, 2013 Delta conference at the Clinton Center next week. The first two articles canbe found on the website at by clicking on the link “Caucus articles.”

“The Delta Caucus supports the firing of top IRS officials involved and the criminal investigation as initial steps in the right direction, but encourages President Obama to keep after the probe until all the facts are established. We also believe there should be Congressional scrutiny, because even though there are many well-intentioned officials in the Obama administration, they ultimately have an interest in the outcome of the investigation because they don’t want the White House and other executive agencies to incur even more damage from this controversy. The legislative branch needs to remain involved as well,” said Caucus Director Lee Powell.

Rep. Mark McElroy of Desha County, Arkansas, Caucus vice chairman, said “It’s a sad day in our country when we have to fear we’ll be targeted by the federal government because of our political beliefs and affiliations.”

Powell stressed that regarding the criminal investigation, “all IRS officials are innocent until proven guilty.” We believe both branches of government should be involved in the scrutiny, although of course “Congress’ investigation should be bipartisan and should not be a Joe McCarthy-style witch hunt.”

“It is disturbing when we consider that IRS officials were targeting the Tea Party and other conservative organizations at a time when President Obama was sharply critical of those groups. At the present time as far as we know the President did not order this inappropriate scrutiny, but high-level career officials have as their supervisors Presidential appointees and this was clearly an atmosphere where they were tempted to please their bosses by this targeting,” Powell said.

McElroy said “The Delta Caucus is basically a centrist group of moderate Democrats, moderate Republicans, Independents, and most of the nonprofits are politically neutral. Most of our partners don’t agree with the Tea Party, so nobody can say with any credibility that we are sympathetic to their plight based on agreeing with their views-far from it, most of us are not that far to the right as many of these groups are. All the more reason for us to stand up for their right to freely participate in the democratic process without being bullied and targeted based on their political philosophy.”

Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville, Alabama is a moderate Republican and one of the Delta Caucus’ key regional partners. Mayor Day made the following statement expressing his deep concerns on this issue:

“I have always been a fan of limited government and government of, by, and “for” the people. The latest IRS Scandal has done more the threaten American People’s confidence and trust in their federal government than at any time in my lifetime of over 53 years. I am one who believes very strongly in the philosophy President Ronald Reagan had with the Russians in negotiating arms control treaties…………….trust but verify. If the IRS wants us to trust their actions….they must allow an independent review of their practices to: #1-fix the problems that are evident that need to be addressed #2- Restructure their audits in a way to ensure additional scrutiny of who and when they should audit is done on a purely non-partisan non-biased way. #3-Trust can only be restored by the IRS opening itself to a full AUDIT of their actions and procedures to ensure compliance and reform “if needed”.

The American People………………….Republicans, Democrats, Independents,…………all of us………….need to be able to trust our federal government and the only way to do that is for the government to be transparent and honest with us……………….we must be able to verify the results and feel comfortable the necessary checks and balances have been put into place that will ultimately prevent the breach of trust issues we have witnessed over the last 18 months.”

Powell said “We call on President Obama and bipartisan forces in Congress to take this unique opportunity to restrict the rude, authoritarian culture and attitudes of the IRS.

While the IRS has never audited or targeted our organization, they also impose a great deal of red tape, they usually feel little or no responsibility to explain their arcane rules and many of them feel free to be rude to citizens or organizations who have questions about their regulations. When nonprofits receive complaints of ‘partisanship,’ the typical IRS attitude is that they are guilty until proven innocent. Congress and the President should make the IRS more cooperative and less authoritarian, and more helpful in explaining their rules and reducing red tape.”

“There is no way anyone could accuse the Delta Caucus of being some sort of anti-Obama group, because in fact we supported his stimulus package, his support for USDA nutrition programs and a good many of his other actions, although at times we may not have agreed with some of his policies. Our position has nothing to do with any sympathy with Tea Party political positions, because in fact most of our partners are not members of the Tea Party,” Powell said.

Powell said that “We were also alarmed when we began discussing with our board members and executive committee about putting out a routine statement critical of the IRS’ inappropriate actions in this case, and some of our partners advised us not to do so for fear that the IRS would target the Delta Caucus in retaliation. We doubt this will happen, but just the fact that our own friends and allies would be afraid of that shows the chilling effect this is having on our rights of free expression. After hearing those warnings, we became all the more resolved to not be silenced.”

“We also received warnings that the IRS may try to appear ‘fair and balanced’ and target more moderate groups like the Delta Caucus to try to show that they are not biased only against conservative groups,” Powell said. “Again, we think that is highly unlikely, but it’s another example of the climate of fear the IRS has created. Hopefully this controversy will create an opening to change the inappropriate culture of the IRS.”

McElroy added that “We were also concerned that in consulting with some of our nonprofit partners in preparing this statement, they said they supported our position but did not want to be quoted in the statement for fear of being targeted by the IRS for criticizing the agency. Again, it’s a sad day in America when law-abiding, constructive citizens can’t speak up on what is really such a clearcut issue.”

This controversy is part of a larger problem caused by the rise of the administrative state, or the “fourth branch of government.” As Jonatha Turley, professor of law at George Washington University, recently wrote in the Washington Post, (Jonathan Turley, “The Rise of the Fourth Branch,” May 26, 2013, page B1) the administrative state “makes, implements and interprets its own rules without any accountability.”

Turley wrote that the suggestion that someone, “even the president, is in control of today’s government may be an illusion.” He said the growing dominance of the federal government over the states has obscured more profound changes within the federal government that make it not just bigger, but “dangerously off kilter.” He warned that our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated “by the rise of a fourth branch, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency.”

Turley warned that the fourth branch consisting of agencies like the IRS now has a larger practical impact on the lives of American citizens than all the other branches combined.

These agencies issue rules, regulations and other lawmaking authority, and this rule-making is done with little accountability by “unnamed, unreachable bureaucrats.”

Turley’s alarming conclusion: “The founders wanted three branches, but the bureaucrats had other plans.”

We hope the investigation into the IRS targeting of conservative groups will bring about a historic effort to bring the “fourth branch of government,” including the IRS, under democratic control and accountability.

Addendum: Detailed Explanation of Various Requirements for Different Types of Corporations

For those who are interested in the details of some of the rules regarding political expression regarding the various types of corporations-both nonprofit and regular corporations, Powell provided the following detailed summary:

“The Delta Caucus is a coalition of organizations and individuals, including both nonprofit and for-profit partners. There has to be an organizing entity, which is Delta Grassroots Caucus, Inc., and this corporation is actually not vulnerable in the way that nonprofit or 501c3 organizations are, because a number of years ago we terminated our nonprofit status and incorporated as a regular corporation. This was done precisely so that on those occasions where we have to take a stand on a political issue that some might consider controversial or “partisan,’ we did not want to have any concern about being threatened by the federal government with loss of tax-exempt status.”

“The distinctions among nonprofits such as a 501c3, a 501c4, and regular corporations that do not have nonprofit status can be complicated and even arcane for those who are not familiar with them. The Delta Caucus was never incorporated as a 501c3, because that status carries with it the greatest burden of avoiding any ‘partisan’ activity or extensive lobbying. Most of the Delta Caucus activities-probably as much as 95%–do not involve any lobbying and we strive for bipartisanship, but we just decided to remain completely independent of any concerns along those lines. So we were never a 501c3.”

“Some years ago we were incorporated for a while as a 501c4 ‘nonprofit,’ which does not have a 501c3’s restrictions on lobbying or potentially controversial political activities. But we found little or no financial advantage to that status because a 501c4 does not have the ability to give tax exemptions to donors. Beyond that, the technically ‘nonprofit’ status of a 501c4 increased the red tape we had to deal with. So we ended the 501c4 status and incorporated as a regular corporation with no ‘nonprofit’ status.

“The other consideration in making this change was that for many years, we heard horror stories about legitimate, well-meaning nonprofits who were bullied and targeted by the IRS. This was often because of accusations of partisanship, in which the IRS tends to begin with the assumption that the accusations are true-which is clearly improper-and in general the IRS tends to be biased against nonprofits because they see them as reducing tax revenue for the federal government. For this reason, the red tape, and the lack of any meaningful tax advantages, Delta Grassroots Caucus, Inc., incorporated as a regular corporation and is not a nonprofit in any form.

“Since we are incorporated like any other regular corporation and are not a nonprofit (although our work and budget primarily comes from volunteers and voluntary financial donations), this gives us the maximum freedom of action in the area of freedom of expression. Many of our activities are educational/informational in highlighting best practices and role models for economic development in the region and are not political, but on the other hand there are times when we feel obligated to take a stand on certain political issues.”

Over the past four or five years the Delta Caucus has been devoting substantially more time and effort to educational/informational activities and considerably less to ‘lobbying,’ which is urging Members of Congress to vote for or against a particular piece of legislation. Many of our activities in recent years have focused on disseminating information about best practices and exemplary role models for regional community and economic development, such as the package of investments by private sector foundations announced at our recent conference at the Clinton Presidential Center on May 2-3, 2013.

This information about our organizational structure has been disseminated publicly on many occasions on our website at and in group email newsletters and other communications.

One example of a political position that was not controversial for the vast majority of our partners but might be considered controversial by others was the following: the private option for Medicaid expansion in Arkansas. The great majority of our partners were in favor of it, and it was bipartisan because both Gov. Beebe, Republican leaders in the legislature, and most Democrats supported it. But for some people this might have been considered controversial or ‘partisan,’ although we thought it was clearly bipartisan.

Since we are not a nonprofit we have complete freedom to take whatever positions we choose, based on feedback from the board, executive committee and the majority of our partners.”

“We should emphasize that nonprofits ought to be allowed to express themselves. We are in a different category and can more easily speak up, because we do not have to worry about losing 501c3 tax-exempt status, since we have never had that status.”

The Delta Caucus is under no obligation to publicize this information about our organizational structure, because we are not a nonprofit; but we have always disseminated information about our organization and the many volunteers who make our work possible. The Delta Caucus organizational structure is explained on the website at by clicking on the links for “organizational structure” and state coordinators. We have a board of directors made up of Caucus Director and chairman of the board Lee Powell; State Rep. and Vice Chairman Mark McElroy; Treasurer, and executive director of the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center, Dr. Martha Ellen Black; board member, former mayor of Blytheville, Arkansas and economic development professional Barrett Harrison; Brad Cole, former mayor of Carbondale, Illinois and business executive in Illinois; and board member emeritus Clifton Avant, formerly business executive and now retired in Marion, Arkansas in the heart of the Delta. There has to be a board to make decisions after consulting as widely as possible with the coalition and developing a consensus.

There is a 20-member senior executive committee including leaders from nonprofits, universities and colleges, business leaders, experts in transportation, broadband, hunger and nutrition, health care, Delta heritage tourism, rural economic development and other USDA issues, small business and entrepreneurialism and other job creation initiatives, aid to family farmers, renewable energy, energy efficiency and “green jobs,” promotion of home-ownership, and other key regional initiatives.

Our data base of active partners is now at approximately 700 grassroots leaders, who are mayors and county elected officials, nonprofit organizations, small business leaders, corporations, universities and colleges, public educators, state legislators, and experts on the key regional issues listed above. The numbers of people who have participated on occasion is estimated at over 5,000. We welcome participation and feedback from all those who are interested in promoting community and economic development in the Greater Delta Region from St. Louis, Missouri and East St. Louis, Illinois to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt.

The organization is based primarily on volunteers, with the exception of Lee Powell, who works very long hours, usually seven days a week. When the Delta Caucus was formed in its current version in 2003, Mr. Powell was a consultant working on a number of issues. Seven years ago he changed to go to work for the Delta Caucus full-time. He is not a volunteer, of course, and there are occasionally part-time employees at the busiest periods, but with those few exceptions the organization is based on people volunteering their time, work and feedback.

Feedback and information are constantly gathered by the coalition’s partners through weekly and daily email communications, smaller meetings, website postings, phone conversations, group email newsletters, the larger conferences at the Clinton Library, the Memphis-West Memphis area, and Washington, DC; and plans are now beginning for adding a north Louisiana meeting to expand our very important Louisiana contingent.

The board and the executive committee in particular gather information and advice every day to stay on top of developments in community and economic development across the region. We welcome and support all other organizations who are working to promote a brighter future for the Delta.

Again, there is a large volume of information on the website at Postings are made several times each month, and there are pages on organizational structure, a list of Caucus articles on a wide range of issues, a copy of the Clinton administration’s “Delta Vision/Delta Voices” report on the Delta in 2000, for which Lee Powell was executive editor at that time as a Presidential appointee in the Clinton administration.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus is a private sector, regional advocacy coalition. We have no direct affiliation with the Delta Regional Authority, which is a federal-state government agency. We do support the DRA as an institution but we are completely separate organizations. We do not speak for the DRA in any shape, form or fashion, and vice versa. The DRA does good work with a very small budget.