After years spent as one of the nation's most ardently liberal members of Congress, former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) became a paid Fox News contributor at the start of this year, and on Sunday his new role cast him as a defender of the tea party, accusing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of engaging in "political targeting" ahead of a presidential election.
The IRS director voluntarily divulged this information during a Washington, D.C. speech on Friday, saying the agency was sorry for the actions of several employees in Cincinnati who closely examined groups with names containing the words "tea party" and "patriot" to see if they were violating their tax exempt status as non-political organizations.
Conservatives like columnist George Will and former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) spent most of Sunday making as much hay out of the IRS announcement as possible, and Kucinich was along for the ride on "Fox News Sunday."
"I am a liberal Democrat," he said. "I'm not someone who's celebrated tea party politics. But we cannot -- this is not tolerable -- we cannot have a condition in America where people's politics are the basis for IRS attacks."
Confronted on whether the situation was "just a bureaucratic foul-up" by lower-level IRS employees, Kucinich balked. "The tone is set from the top," he said. "That's the problem we have to look at here, the tone that's set. We are in a hyper-partisan, intensely partisan condition in Washington. The polarization is damaging to our country and we're seeing another symptom of it here."
Asked by host Chris Wallace if what the IRS engaged in was "political targeting," Kucinish replied: "How can it not be?"
To answer Kucinich's rhetorical question, groups like Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, two of centers of gravity in the Republican Party, are also considered non-political, tax-exempt organizations by the IRS. As the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pointed out in a Federal Elections Commission complaint last July, these groups remain overtly political organizations at their core but retain tax-exempt status by carefully treading the line set in election law, which allows these groups to attack candidates or pending legislation, but not to ask for someone's vote.
There's also a troubling history of conservatives using nonprofits and shell companies to get around campaign finance laws, perhaps giving historical precedent for IRS agents to put tax-exempt groups with overtly political names under the spotlight.
The IRS, however, backed off conservative-leaning churches last year when pastors began openly engaging in Republican advocacy as a test of their "religious freedom," so it wouldn't be surprising if that happened again here. Republicans on Capitol Hill are already gearing up for a series of House hearings about the agency's latest disclosure.
This video is from "Fox News Sunday," aired Sunday, May 12, 2013 and snipped by Mediaite.