Watchdog Objects to New IRS Proposal Targeting Nonprofits


Watchdog group Judicial Watch sent a letter on Wednesday to the Internal Revenue Service calling for the withdrawal of a new proposal regarding nonprofit groups, calling the proposal a “plainly unconstitutional regulation that arbitrarily reverses 53 years of administrative and judicial precedent.”

The new proposal would replace the decades-old 501(c)(4) definition—“participation of intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office”—with a new term—“candidate-related political activity.”

The letter referenced the improper targeting by the IRS of conservative nonprofit groups organized under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The letter states:

[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. […]

Although the Service has alleged that its true motivation behind promulgating these rules is not to shut down the speech of conservative 501(c)(4) organizations in the middle of an election year, the timing, overbreadth, and under-inclusiveness suggest otherwise.  Further, this would not be the first time that the impetus for a tax statute or regulation was to shut down the speech of opponents.

“These new IRS rules are a dagger aimed at the heart of the conservative movement,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “These unconstitutional rules are a continuation of the IRS scandal that saw the entire Tea Party movement suppressed by the IRS to help President Obama’s reelection. President Obama and his partisan allies in Congress want to stifle the speech of Americans opposed to their policies. This abuse of the IRS is every bit as much of a crisis for this Republic as anything Nixon did.”