Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the Senate floor Thursday to say the rules amount to a declaration of war on free speech and vowing the GOP will try to block them.
“Every American needs to know about this abuse of power,” said Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “Let me be clear: What the administration is proposing poses a grave threat to the ability of ordinary Americans to freely participate in the Democratic process.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which has faced IRS audits, said the rules would give the Obama administration more power to muzzle its critics.
“We have seen that this administration cannot be trusted with the authority they have,” he said. “Why give them more?”
But Stephen Spaulding, legal counsel at Common Cause, a nonprofit that advocates government transparency, said the rules apply to groups on both the right and left, and called the idea that they are anti-free speech “laughable.” He said they stemmed from a “kind of paranoid vision that the president is after them.” [note: see first line of the post]This past summer we discovered that the IRS and other parts of the administration such as the EPA was targeting Conservative groups.
The changes, which the acting IRS commissioner rolled out during the Thanksgiving recess just before he was replaced, have largely flown under the radar while Congress has focused on investigating suspected abuses. In May, an audit from the Treasury inspector general for tax administration found the tax agency had been singling out for extra scrutiny tea party and conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status.Under the proposed IRS rules, a 501(C)(3) group would not be eligible for tax-exempt status if it is identified with a candidate or political party; communicates with or advocates for a candidate within 60 days of a general election and within 30 days of a general election; engages in voter registration drives or get out the vote drives, or holds events for candidates. Further, these groups will be required to report expenditures to the Federal Elections Commission.
The rules prompted the latest fight in a years long battle over interest groups and their roles in politics. Democrats have been calling for a crackdown since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision allowed corporations and labor unions to spend money advocating for or against issues, leading to a flood of conservative and tea party groups signing up for nonprofit status.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, said the IRS is trying to bring more transparency to the political process so big donors can’t siphon money to tax-exempt groups for political purposes.This is nothing more than an attempt to silence conservative organization. We already know the Obama administration will go above and beyond to use the IRS as a political weapon, this only legalizes their actions.
“The issue is not whether or not outside groups can spend money to influence these elections,” Mr. Van Hollen told The Washington Times. “The question is whether or not voters have a right to know who is spending gobs of money to bankroll these campaigns and try to influence the outcome of elections.”