Democrats are trying to make sure conservative groups are silenced in the 2014 midterm elections, says Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel.
"That's the big, dirty secret of the omnibus negotiations. As one of the only bills destined to pass this year, the omnibus was — behind the scenes — flurry of horse trading. One of the biggest fights was over GOP efforts to include language to stop the IRS from instituting a new round of 501(c)(4) trading," she wrote Friday
, referring to a new rule governing nonprofits that was introduced
by the Treasury Department and the IRS during the Thanksgiving recess.
"What the rule in fact does is recategorize as 'political' all manner of educational activities that 501(c)(4) social-welfare organizations currently engage in. It's IRS targeting all over again, only this time by administration design and with the raw political goals—as House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., notes—of putting 'tea party groups out of business,'" Strassel said.
"Congressional sources tell me that House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., had two priorities in the omnibus negotiations. One was getting in protection for groups that morally oppose Obamacare's contraception-coverage requirement. The other was language that would put a hold on the IRS rule."
The White House and Senate Democrats had a different agenda, including more funding for Obamacare and the International Monetary Fund, according to Strassel.
"Yet my sources say that throughout the negotiations Democrats went all in on keeping the IRS rule, even though it meant losing their own priorities," she revealed.
"In the final hours before the omnibus was introduced Monday night, the administration made a last push for IMF money. Asked to negotiate that demand in the context of new IRS language, it refused."
The reason: "With one little IRS rule it can shut up hundreds of groups that pose a direct threat by restricting their ability to speak freely in an elections season about spending or Obamacare or jobs. And it gets away with it by positioning this new targeting as a fix for the first round."
Strassel noted that the 90-day comment period on the new rule ends on Feb. 27, "positioning the administration to shut down conservative groups early in this election cycle."
"Mr. Camp's committee has meanwhile noted that Treasury appears to have reverse-engineered the carefully tailored rule—combing through the list of previously targeted tea party groups, compiling a list of their main activities and then restricting those functions," Strassel said.
"Mr. Camp has now authored stand-alone legislation to rein in the IRS, though the chance of Majority Leader Harry Reid, D, Nev., allowing a Senate vote is approximately equal to that of the press corps paying attention to this IRS rule," she added.
Strassel concluded, "So that puts a spotlight on newly sworn-in IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who vowed during his confirmation hearing to restore public trust in the agency, and now must decide whether to aid in a new and blatantly political abuse of IRS powers.
"The White House is using the agency to win an election this fall. They gave the proof this week," she said.
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