IRS tries to clean up act by defin­ing po­lit­i­cal acts

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Months af­ter it ac­knowl­edged im­prop­erly tar­get­ing con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal groups for scru­tiny, the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice on Tues­day re­leased new guide­lines it said will clean up what sorts of ac­tiv­i­ties count as po­lit­i­cal — but which crit­ics said could end up sti­fling free speech even more.

The agency is try­ing to clean up af­ter its own au­di­tor said it asked in­tru­sive ques­tions and im­prop­erly de­layed ap­pli­ca­tions from tea party and con­ser­va­tive groups seek­ing tax-ex­empt sta­tus in the past three years.

The IRS said the new set of rules defin­ing po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is the first step, and still to come is an­other rule lay­ing out just how much po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is al­lowed be­fore a non­profit goes too far and loses the right to tax-ex­empt sta­tus.

“We are com­mit­ted to get­ting this right be­fore is­su­ing fi­nal guid­ance that may af­fect a broad group of or­ga­ni­za­tions,” said Mark J. Mazur, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury. “It will take

pur­poses,” ac­cord­ing to the editorial, which claimed Wash­ing­ton has no le­git­i­mate ba­sis for chal­leng­ing the new air-de­fense zone, known in Chi­nese mil­i­tary par­lance as an Air De­fense Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Zone, or ADIZ.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion showed no signs of back­ing down. Deputy White House spokesman Josh Earnest told re­porters that China’s cre­ation of the zone over the week­end was “un­nec­es­sar­ily in­flam­ma­tory and has a desta­bi­liz­ing im­pact on the re­gion,” while State Depart­ment spokes­woman Jen Psaki ac­cused Bei­jing of try­ing to “uni­lat­er­ally change the sta­tus quo in the East China Sea.”

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion con­firmed the mis­sion first dis­closed by The Wall Street Jour­nal late Mon­day evening, al­though it re­mained coy about de­tails of the B-52s’ flight.

Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, a De­fense Depart­ment spokesman, said the planes flew “as part of a long-planned train­ing sor­tie,” and that the bombers were not chal­lenged at any point by Chi­nese forces.

The Reuters news agency re­ported Tues­day evening that China’s sole air­craft car­rier had left port on a “train­ing mis­sion” head­ing for the South China Sea, where Bei­jing has been en­gaged in sovereignty dis­putes with the Philip­pines and other re­gional neigh­bors. It was not clear if the car­rier move was re­lated to the new U.S.-China ten­sions.

Chal­lenged claim

The Pen­tagon dis­patched the two un­armed B- 52 bombers from Guam Mon­day evening specif­i­cally to chal­lenge the Chi­nese claim of ex­clu­sive con­trol of the airspace over the chain of land patches in the East China Sea — known is China as the Diaoyu and in Ja­pan as the Senkaku Is­lands.

The two Asian pow­ers have a long dis­pute over con­trol of the is­lands, which sit in the mid­dle of what an­a­lysts say is a seabed po­ten­tially rich with oil, gas and other min­eral de­posits. U.S. of­fi­cials had dis­missed China’s an­nounce­ment Satur­day that it was es­tab­lish­ing the new mil­i­ta­rized zone around the is­land chain, and the move sparked an an­gry re­ac­tion in Ja­pan.

The flights fol­lowed re­marks Sun­day by De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel that China’s cre­ation of the new air de­fense zone would “not in any way change how the United States con­ducts mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the re­gion.”

Mr. Hagel warned that the “uni­lat­eral ac­tion” by Bei­jing “in­creases the risk of misunderstanding and mis­cal­cu­la­tions.”

Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials por­trayed the claim to the new zone as a de­fen­sive — rather than of­fen­sive — mea­sure.

On Satur­day, China’s De­fense Min­istry spokesman Yang Yu­jun had said the broad pur­pose of any air de­fense zone was “to guard against po­ten­tial air threats.”

“This airspace, de­mar­cated out­side the ter­ri­to­rial airspace, al­lows a coun­try to iden­tify, mon­i­tor, con­trol and dis­pose of en­ter­ing air­craft,” said Mr. Yang, ac­cord­ing to China’s state-backed Xin­hua news ser­vice. “It sets aside time for early warn­ing and helps de­fend the coun­try’s airspace.”

Ja­pan vs. China

Re­gional an­a­lysts said Chi­nese pos­tur­ing is cre­at­ing new geopo­lit­i­cal chal­lenges for Wash­ing­ton, where the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is be­ing forced to choose sides in the widen­ing di­vide be­tween Ja­pan and China.

“Re­cent Chi­nese moves to un­der­line its claims to the dis­puted Senkaku/Diaoyu is­lands have forced the U.S. to back Ja­pan far more vig­or­ously and openly than it would pre­fer,” said Thomas Berger, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Bos­ton Univer­sity.

“Over the past year, Ja­panese con­ser­va­tives have called on the U.S. re­peat­edly to make more mus­cu­lar dis­plays of sup­port,” Mr. Berger said in an email Tues­day. “The U.S., how­ever, has been re­luc­tant to re­spond to Ja­panese re­quests be­cause it wishes to con­tinue to en­gage [China].”

“China’s ex­ten­sion of its air-de­fense zone to cover the dis­puted is­lands — and its de­mands that civil­ian air­craft ac­knowl­edge its au­thor­ity over the area — have crossed a red line for Wash­ing­ton,” he said. “Fail­ure to re­spond may in­vite fur­ther, more dan­ger­ous provo­ca­tions later. It would also en­cour­age Tokyo to un­der­take more ro­bust mea­sures of its own.”

Fric­tion over the is­land chain has ebbed and flowed dur­ing re­cent years. Chi­nese of­fi­cials last year ac­cused the Ja­panese govern­ment of con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe of try­ing to strengthen Ja­pan’s claims to the chain, and coast guard ships from both sides have reg­u­larly con­fronted each other in the area’s wa­ters.

No di­rect mil­i­tary con­tact has bro­ken out, but ten­sions soared last month when Ja­pan threat­ened to shoot down un­manned Chi­nese drones that Tokyo claims have been fly­ing in the area.

While deny­ing any in­tent to raise ten­sions with Tokyo, the China Daily editorial also car­ried a veiled threat to pos­si­ble “hos­tile in­trud­ers” in the re­gion.

“Our De­fense Min­istry made it clear that the zone does not tar­get any spe­cific coun­try,” the editorial states. “And no coun­try ex­cept Ja­pan and the U.S. have voiced con­cerns. This is be­cause other coun­tries know it is de­signed to only fer­ret out hos­tile in­trud­ers.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Trav­el­ers wait in line to board a flight Tues­day at La­Guardia Air­port in New York. A winter storm sys­tem that hit parts of Arkansas, Ok­la­homa and Texas swept to­ward the densely pop­u­lated East Coast dur­ing the day, threat­en­ing to dis­rupt the plans of trav­el­ers ahead of the long Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day week­end with a messy mix of snow, rain and wind. Story, A6.

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