The IRS in February tapped a "non-partisan" think tank to advise a controversial overhaul of the agency’s "direct file" tax return system. But the organization in question, New America, does not have a particularly non-partisan track record. In fact, it routinely advocates for Democratic policies.
New America is funded by some of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors and has backed radical policy positions such as the movement to defund police. The Beltway think tank also claims its U.S.-Iran Initiative "helped pave the way for the landmark Iran nuclear agreement." It hosted a book party for an anti-Israel activist who compared Israel to Nazi Germany, and one of its scholars called for a "military coup" to oust former president Donald Trump after his inauguration.
Now, New America has a major role in a potential overhaul at the IRS that could make the tax agency both tax collector and tax preparer for millions of Americans. The IRS tapped New America to study the merits of an expansion of its system for the filing of free online tax returns. While liberal lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) say the system will save taxpayers both time and money, Republicans balk at the conflict of interest inherent in the arrangement.
Critics also say the IRS pick does not live up to the mandate for the study, which is funded with $15 million earmarked in the Inflation Reduction Act. The proposal called for a study by a "non-partisan" group. New America is funded by Democratic donors like Laurene Powell Jobs, George Soros, and Reid Hoffman. Its president is longtime Hillary Clinton crony Anne-Marie Slaughter.
"The Administration handpicked New America, a think tank with ties to the liberal wing of the Democrat party that has already advocated for this bureaucratic expansion," said Rep. Jason Smith (R., Mo.), the chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. "Can we really trust the IRS to file Americans’ taxes for them in a fair and impartial way when it already stacks the deck towards a predetermined conclusion to gain more power?"
In fact, New America has already made up its mind on the issue it is tasked with studying. The think tank said in a 2021 report that the IRS "can and should" implement a system to expand its direct file system.
New America’s support for controversial policies in the past could call its judgment on the IRS issue into question.
The think tank has taken credit for the Iran nuclear deal, claiming that its U.S.-Iran Initiative "helped pave the way for the landmark Iran nuclear agreement." That initiative was led by Suzanne DiMaggio, who later co-founded the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, an isolationist think tank funded by George Soros and Charles Koch.
DiMaggio aggressively defended the Iran framework during her tenure, such as in an article, "Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Benefits the US." She organized a 2015 event in New York City with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, where the hardliner took shots at Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal. Zarif also accused the Washington Post of running a "publicity campaign" on behalf of a reporter held hostage in Iran.
DiMaggio, who served as a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), insisted that Iran would honor its end of the deal. But when Tehran violated limits on its nuclear fuel production, she blamed it on "the Trump administration’s bullying."
"If you keep poking a bear, eventually it is going to hit back," she wrote in a deleted tweet in 2019.
"Democrats have hired Democrats to study a Democrat’s plan to expand the power and authority of the IRS. What could go wrong?" Cotton said.
New America scholars backed the movement to defund police departments, which has been linked to surging crime rates across the country. New America senior fellow Hollie Russon Gilman wrote in 2020 that "cities across the country have over-invested in the police" and argued for "defunding [the police]" as a solution to city budget issues. She recommended that American cities adopt the model of the left-wing Brazilian Workers’ Party to allow local communities to vote directly on allocations for police and other services.
In a 2021 essay, "Why are we afraid of defunding the police?," New America scholars asserted that America’s policing system evolved from slave patrols in the 19th century. They lamented that "although the United States abolished slavery, we never abolished the legacy institution that enforced it." They wrote that the current system "fuels mass incarceration, fails to prevent crime at the source, and demonstrates a callous disregard for the lives of people of color."
New America employees have pushed other ill-fated proposals, such as senior fellow Rosa Brooks’s suggestion in 2017 that a "military coup" be carried out to remove Trump from office.
The think tank also has a history of providing platforms for anti-Israel views. New America came under fire in 2013 for hosting a book party for activist Max Blumenthal, who compared Israel to Nazi Germany with chapters titled "The Concentration Camp" and "The Night of Broken Glass." One prominent liberal columnist said the book "could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed)."
New America is expected to provide its study on direct file to the IRS later this month. Neither organization responded to requests for comment.