Delay of IRS Rule on Tax-Exempt Groups Heads to Vote Next Week

Friday, 21 Feb 2014 12:31 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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The battle over the IRS' targeting of conservative groups is set to heat up next week when House lawmakers will vote on legislation to delay changing an IRS rule limiting the political activity of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups, The Hill reports.

In January, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, sponsored a bill entitled "Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014."

Camp has said it's imperative to conclude his committee's investigation into IRS actions before enacting new rules.

"We cannot allow these draft regulations to go into effect," he said. "Congress must make sure every American's right to participate and engage in civic debate is protected, and this legislation will provide some much-needed assurance that IRS targeting and surveillance will not continue."

The legislation would delay, for one year, a rule proposed by the IRS in November that would prohibit social welfare organizations with 501(c)(4) status from engaging in political activity such as voter registration, candidate forums, or communicating an incumbent's record.

The issue struck a nerve when it was alleged that tea party groups were being targeted by the IRS. Tea party conservatives were especially outraged when Justice Department officials said last month that while its investigation would continue, it didn't look like any criminal charges would be filed, Fox News reported.

In January, the Tea Party Patriots posted a video on You Tube featuring a partner in the Foley & Lardner law firm who represents various tea party groups who have been subjected to purported IRS targeting.

In the video, lawyer Cleta Mitchell says the change would mean "codifying and making permanent through a rule the terrible things [the IRS] were doing to tea party groups for the last three to four years."

Story continues below video.

Under the pending change, social welfare and civic groups would not be permitted to engage in activities such as voter registrations, even if a candidate is never mentioned, or put out voter guides, conduct forums, or communicate the voting records of incumbents.

"It's all defined as candidate-related political activity," said Mitchell, adding that it's problematic that the regulations would not also apply to labor unions or trade associations.

"So here you have a situation where a local tea party group would be covered and restricted by these rules but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can spends hundreds of millions of dollars and it's not covered," she said.

A Ways and Means committee member, GOP Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, said he expects Camp's bill will easily pass the House but may face a challenge in the Senate.

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