House Republican seeks to halt pending IRS guidance

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) has introduced legislation that would temporarily halt the Internal Revenue Service from finalizing proposed guidance that would legitimatize and institutionalize the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced the issuance of proposed guidance for organizations seeking tax-exempt status. The proposed rules would define “candidate-related political activity” and exclude groups that engage in this activity from receiving non-profit status and require them to disclose donors.

Camp, who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, questioned the motivation behind the rules, noting that a congressional inquiry into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups is not yet complete.

“Despite the Administration’s insistence that ‘there’s nothing to see here,’ the Committee has found evidence demonstrating that right-leaning groups were targeted to an extent far beyond what was reported by the Inspector General,” said Camp in a statement.

“Our investigation is still ongoing and the Committee has not received all the requested documents,” he said. “It is premature to publish new rules before getting all of the facts.

Camp said that the proposed guidance would target groups exercising their First Amendment rights.

“We cannot allow these draft regulations to go into effect. 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,” he added.

The legislation — Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014 — would halt the IRS from implementing the guidance for one year. This would give Camp’s committee time to complete its investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups.

Earlier this month, more than 55 conservative groups — including Americans for Tax Reform, Campaign for Liberty, Heritage Action, and the National Taxpayers Union — urged Congress to stop the IRS from finalizing the proposed guidance.

“The IRS proposal would restrict the free speech rights of such groups by arbitrarily deeming political a wide variety of activities in the newly-created category of ‘Candidate-Related Political Activity,’ which includes voter registration drives, candidate debates, voter guides, voting records and key votes,” wrote the leaders of the conservative groups in a letter to members of Congress.

“They would restrict any criticism of an incumbent federal, state, or local politician within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election and effectively require groups to remove any reference to politicians from their websites during these windows,” they said. The groups also noted that the IRS’s definition of a ‘candidate’ would extend to executive appointees and judicial nominations.

“These draconian rules will effectively muzzle 501(c)4 groups in the run-up to November’s mid-term elections while unfairly exempting 501(c)5 labor unions that support liberal candidates and causes,” the groups added.

The IRS is currently accepting public comment on the proposed guidance, and will be until  February 27. FreedomWorks, a grassroots service center to some 6 million activist, setup a domain,, which redirects concerned grassroots activists to the tax agency’s website where they can leave their thoughts on the proposed free speech stifling regulations.

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