IRS Backtracks on Free Speech Regulations, Senate Attempts to Rewrite First Amendment

IRS Backtracks on Free Speech Regulations, Senate Attempts to Rewrite First Amendment

Here is a red flag on yet another scheme by the Left to silence conservatives: This time by amending the U.S. Constitution. 

First, some good news: As a component of its all-out assault on “tea-party-like” organizations, the IRS proposed new guidelines that would have crippled the right to free speech for conservatives and other Americans across the country. 

Judicial Watch strongly opposed the guidelines, notifying the IRS of its objections and also bringing press attention to the controversy. Now it appears the agency has scuttled its plans — at least for now. 

According to Fox News

The IRS has agreed to overhaul a controversial proposal that Republican lawmakers warned would revive the agency’s “harassment and intimidation” of conservative groups, after receiving a record number of comments on the proposed regulation.  

The new rules have been in the works ever since the IRS came under fire for its targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups. In the wake of that scandal, the agency said it wanted to clarify for everybody how tax-exempt groups can engage in political activity — by reining in the political work those groups do.  

But Republicans, as well as some on the left, worried the new rules would only exacerbate the kind of targeting that stonewalled Tea Party groups in the first place. 

The IRS noted in a statement that it had received some 150,000 comments regarding these new guidelines.  Thousands of JW supporters made their views known, so you can savor the victory. JW was perhaps the most forceful and influential voice of opposition. 

Among other strong actions, on February 26, 2014, JW sent an official notice to the IRS requesting that the agency direct the Treasury Department to withdraw the guidelines. In the notice, we argued these guidelines represent an “unconstitutional regulation” that “arbitrarily reverses 53 years of administrative and judicial precedent.” More from our letter: 

[Judicial Watch] is very concerned about both the opaque process by which the proposed regulations were developed, as well as the context–the apparent abuse of authority and potentially unconstitutional and criminal conduct by IRS employees with respect to the review of applications for exemption under §501(c)(4) filed by hundreds of organizations, the vast majority of which were “tea party” or other organizations supporting conservative policy principles and opposing many of the initiatives promoted by President Obama and his liberal allies–out of which the proposed regulations apparently arose.   

The secret manner in which these proposed regulations were developed, and the substantive provisions that would overturn more than 50 years of settled precedent regarding what is “intervention in a political campaign,” only increase the suspicion that the IRS is not attempting to administer the law as it is, but is attempting to arrogate to itself the making of the law, a function belonging solely to Congress, and not to the IRS. 

This IRS power play was too much and the Obama IRS will wait until next year before officially trying to stifle more free speech (though we know that they are continuing to oppress conservatives and others opposed to Obama’s policies. A victory? Yes, in the short term. But so pervasive is the Left’s attack on conservative organizations and donors there is no time to celebrate. 

While the IRS was having second thoughts on its proposed guidelines, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and his liberal allies in the U.S. Senate were pushing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would silence conservative voices in another manner — by enabling Congress to regulate all campaign contributions and spending! 

Per Politico

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wholeheartedly endorsed a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending on Thursday, putting the Senate on course to vote on the matter as early as July. 

Reid said that the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the amendment on June 3, which allows Congress and the states to limit fundraising and spending on federal campaigns and gives lawmakers the ability to regulate outside groups. From there, the amendment will go to the Senate floor… 

How bad is this proposed amendment?  

Even Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who helped craft campaign finance restrictions recently ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, said he’d vote against it! McCain called the legislation an “exercise in hypocrisy” for the Left, which champions its own billionaires (see George Soros) while demonizing wealthy supporters of conservative causes (see the Kochs). 

Senator Reid does not expect to garner the necessary 67 votes in the Senate to pass the amendment. But passage is a secondary goal here, at least in the short term. The proposed amendment “will still pay dividends in the run-up to the midterm elections,” writes Politico, “painting Republicans as supporters of big money in politics and Democrats as on the side of ordinary voters.” 

The craven politics aside, I am worried that a proposal to gut the First Amendment has 41 co-sponsors in the United States Senate.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is actually having a hearing on gutting the First Amendment on Tuesday, June 3.  Here is a link to the list of senators on the Judiciary Committee — you might to want explain to these members and your own senators what you think about this assault on your God-given right of free speech.   

As I said when the Supreme Court campaign finance ruling came down, restricting campaign contributions is not only wrong, it will do little to address the problem of corruption in government: 

Judicial Watch believes that better enforcement of bribery and extortion laws are key to fighting government corruption — not self-serving restrictions on free speech by politicians.