Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel noted on Friday that Barack Obama and the IRS have a new plan to target Tea Party groups in advance of the 2014 elections.
During Thanksgiving week, the Treasury Department announced a proposal to limit the political activity of 501(c)(4) groups. The Obama Administration claimed that the plan was necessary to clarify confusing tax laws.
The House Ways and Means Committee investigators believe that the proposal was designed by examining Tea Party group applications, figuring out exactly how they proceeded, then limiting those very actions in the new proposal, thus shutting them out of the political process.
House Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp said, “The committee has reviewed thousands of tax exempt applications. The new regulation so closely mirrors the abused tea-party group applications, it leads me to question if this new proposed regulation is simply another form of targeting.”
Tea Party groups, just as other tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations, have to prove that the majority of their work is for “primary” social-welfare purpose if they want to keep their tax-exempt status. The primary purpose of most Tea party groups is illuminating for Americans the size of government and the erosion of the Constitution. They do so through nonpartisan voter guides, speakers forums, pamphlets, or voter-registration drives.
Now, however, the IRS is planning to recognize those very activities as “political activity,” not “social welfare,” thus rendering Tea Party groups unfit for 501(c)(4) status.
Thus, the new proposal is not about clarifying tax laws but rather, as Dave Camp stated, “to put Tea Party groups out of business.”
The new rule only applies to 501(c)(4) groups. The League of Women Voters Education Fund, a Democratic stronghold, is registered as a 501(c)(3), considered a “charity” that is strictly limited regarding its political activity. That same organization claims on its website that it holds “candidate debates and forums,” and its “educational activities” include “understanding candidate views and ballot initiatives.”
The League can still issue its voter guides, registrations, and candidate forums. Any conservative social-welfare organization acting similarly will probably lose its tax-exempt status. And guess which groups are unaffected by the new rule, because they are 501(c)(5)s?
As Strassel writes:
The same president who in May was “outraged” by the IRS’s actions now says it was all just some confusion over tax law (which his new rule fixes). He told Chris Matthews last week that the media had hyped what was a few poor IRS souls in Cincinnati who were “trying to streamline what is a difficult law to interpret… And they’ve got a list, and suddenly everybody’s outraged.”