The Internal Revenue Service quietly proposed new regulationsaimed at 501(c)(4) organizations during the Thanksgiving recess that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, called “a crass political effort by the Administration to get what political advantage they can, when they can.”
Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations were apparently singled out by the IRS starting in 2010, and the heavy hand of government suppression of these groups may have greatly attributed to Obama’s re-election, an American Enterprise Institute study revealed in October.
The Washington Post reported last week the Treasury Department said the new rules “may be both more restrictive and more permissive than the current approach.” The new rules focus on organizations known as “social welfare” groups that regulated within section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Conservative political operations, liberal groups before them, began to organize under the 501 (c)(4) umbrella in the past ten years, and having such a tax status would allow these organizations from disclosing their donors.
A 54-year-old rule says that an organization can become a social welfare organization “if it is primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.” The new IRS regulation now says “campaign-related political activity” cannot count towards a group’s social welfare mission. Such a regulation would discount numerous conservative advocacy groups either seeking for or wanting to maintain a 501(c)(4) tax status. According to the Post:
“The phone and e-mail exploded,” said Dan Backer, an Alexandria lawyer specializing in election law who represents many nonprofit groups on the right. “We are all going to spend a tremendous amount of time and energy fighting back against this.”