Senator Blunt Co-Sponsors Bill To Prevent IRS Targeting, Protect Free Speech
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) co-sponsored the “Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act” (S. 2011), which was introduced today by U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Pat Roberts (Kan.) and is co-sponsored by 36 additional senators.
The bill would protect the free-speech rights of 501(c)(4) organizations by prohibiting for one year the finalization of a proposed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulation that would significantly limit the advocacy and educational activities of these groups. The bill would also prevent additional targeting of 501(c)(4) organizations by restoring the IRS 501(c)(4) standards and definitions that were in place before the start of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups in 2010.
“People in Missouri and across the country are rightly concerned about government overreach and political targeting that we’ve witnessed under this administration,” Blunt said. “I’m fighting for more transparency and accountability in Washington, and I'm pleased to join Senators Flake and Roberts in this effort to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights.”
On November 29, 2013, the Department of Treasury published a proposed IRS rule that would broadly define 501(c)(4) political activity to include voter registration, voter education, communications that mention a candidate or party, grants to 527s, and events in which a candidate participates, among other activities. Even non-partisan activities would be limited. The regulations specifically single out 501(c)(4) organizations, and do not apply to other nonprofit organizations such as charities, labor unions or trade associations.
The administration has already faced harsh criticism for earlier attempts by the IRS to target these same organizations. On May 14, 2013, the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration released a report finding that the IRS had inappropriately targeted and applied excessive scrutiny to the applications of conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. Several IRS employees, including the acting commissioner, resigned as a result of the scandal. Investigations by the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Department of Justice are ongoing.
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