|The Honorable Senator FlakeUnited States Senate368 Russell Senate Office BuildingWashington, DC 20510||The Honorable Pat RobertsUnited States Senate109 Hart Senate Office BuildingWashington, DC 20510|
Dear Senators Flake and Roberts:
On behalf of the 362,000 members of National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I write to endorse S. 2011, the “Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014.” This legislation would delay for one year a proposed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) modification of existing rules that determine whether or not an organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Taxpayers were appalled to learn last year of potential political discrimination on the part of the IRS in determining the tax status of not-for-profit social welfare organizations. Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation into that situation, rushing through a radical new rule change is not the proper response at this time. In addition, the “off-plan” manner in which the proposed rule was drafted raises serious procedural questions.
If taxpayers are concerned about the lack of transparency at the IRS, the proposed rule does little to ease those doubts. The edict would significantly restrict the ability of (c)(4) organizations, including NTU, to educate citizens who might also cast votes. The rule includes a series of authoritarian measures such as barring the mention of candidates’ name or parties, even in a non-political context and forcing organizations to hide past references to candidates online and off. If ridiculous rules like these are implemented, they would chill legitimate communications over issues that incumbents in Congress happen to be debating in election years. Together with other burdensome new regulations, the IRS’s rule would severely impair the ability of organizations to continue holding elected officials accountable and ultimately constitutes a profound infringement on our First Amendment rights.
Proponents of the rule claim that the new statute is necessary in order to prevent the kind “poor decision making” that led to the earlier scandal. However, selectively limiting the activities of one particular type of organization is a giant thumb on the free-speech scale in favor of unions and rent-seeking special interests. There are also practical considerations; as the Center for Competitive Politics recently noted, the proposal violates the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) owing to “excessively low and wildly off the mark” estimates of compliance burdens. Congress must step in to uphold the PRA.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently said, “Taxpayers need to be confident that they will be treated fairly, no matter what their background or their affiliations. Public trust is the IRS’ most valuable asset.” Restricting speech is far from fair and imposing burdensome new regulations targeting taxpayer allies is hardly a trust-building exercise. S. 2011 gives Congress an important opportunity to wisely utilize the authority voters have given it to set boundaries for overstepping, unelected bureaucrats. NTU urges all Senators to cosponsor this legislation and work toward its immediate enactment.
Sincerely,Nan SwiftFederal Affairs Manager