WASHINGTON —U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today joined 38 of his Republican colleagues in co-sponsoring legislation to stop the Internal Revenue Service from implementing its proposal to severely curtail the political activities of 501(c)(4) groups.
S.2011, the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act, would protect the free-speech rights of 501(c)(4) organizations by prohibiting for one year the finalization of a proposed IRS regulation to 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 IRS’ targeting of conservative groups in 2010.
“Our Founding Fathers made freedom of speech the First Amendment right to the Constitution for a reason, and I am proud to join my colleagues in ensuring that our Constitutional rights are preserved for groups of all political beliefs,” said Isakson, who is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the IRS. “I will continue to do all I that I can to ensure that the corruption and politicization we’ve recently seen within the IRS never happens again.”
On Nov. 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.
The bill was introduced by U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Az., and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-KS.