The Internal Revenue Service has quietly announced a new rule that strictly limits the ability of 501(c)(4), tax-exempt organizations from working on their core missions in the months leading up to federal, state, and local elections.
The proposed regulations would prohibit these organizations from engaging in candidate-related political activity, which, by the proposed rule’s definition, includes any mention of a candidate’s name or political party even if presented in a non-political context. Further, organizations would have to ensure that any references to candidates in past communications are not publicly available, including online, during the pre-election window.
These regulations would, in effect, prohibit organizations from providing the public with candidate comparisons and voting records, engaging in get-out-the-vote activities, or encouraging informed civic participation, among other activities. They would severely limit both the organizations’ First Amendment free speech and the public’s ability to hold elected officials accountable for their actions.
“This is a real assault on the First Amendment rights of American citizens, and we need to do everything we can to stop the IRS from implementing these new rules,” Mitchell said.
Comments on the proposed IRS rule change posted at Regulations.gov are overwhelmingly negative, thus far, with only one anti-Koch lib showing support out of 177 comments.
Last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced legislation (H.R. 3865) to block the IRS from finalizing new restrictions on 501(c)(4 groups.
Camp, who led an investigation into the IRS’s targeting of organizations seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status, said that the investigation is still ongoing and that the committee needs more time to review documents they are still waiting to receive. His bill would delay implementation of the new rules for one year to allow the committee to complete the investigation and review public comments on the proposal.
“It is premature to publish new rules before getting all of the facts,” Camp said in a statement. “The administration’s proposed rules openly target groups that are exercising their First Amendment rights.
We cannot allow these draft regulations to go into effect. Congress must make sure every American’s right to participate and engage in civic debate is protected, and this legislation will provide some much-needed assurance that IRS targeting and surveillance will not continue.”