Former IRS Officer Drafted Secret Regulations Restricting Non-Profits in 2012

After President Barack Obama defended his administration’s handling of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservatives, an email sent from Treasury official Ruth Madrigal to then IRS official Lois Lerner obtained by the House Committee on Ways and Means, indicated the former official’s intentions to change 501(c)(4) regulations without disclosing the move.

The “off-plan” to which the email referred to was planned in 2012, while conservative groups were being directly targeted by the IRS. According to The Daily Caller, the rules thought out by Lerner restrict the political activity of conservative groups by keeping non-profit associations from being free to participate in several political activities.  The “off-plan” changed what the IRS sees as “candidate-related political activity,” placing previously acceptable activities like voter registration drives under the political activity category, thus not recommended for 501(c)(4)’s.

Ways and Means chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) had harsh words regarding Lois Lerner and her off-the-record plan during the House committee meeting that disclosed the contents of the email.

According to Camp, the IRS should stop all actions against 501(c)(4) groups until all investigations are carried out. “I believe the IRS has a long way to go in restoring its credibility,” he said. “This committee will fight any and all efforts to restrict the rights of groups to organize, speak out and educate the public, just as unions are allowed to do so. We will get to the bottom of this, and I expect the IRS to produce – quickly – the outstanding documents the committee has requested.”

While IRS commissioner Koshinen said that the rules “put to rest all of the issues surrounding applications for tax-exempt status,” the email from 2012 shows that the changes had been drafted long before the scandal broke, which could indicate the former official’s intentions regarding the status of non-profit conservative groups.

Only six liberal groups were scrutinized, while 292 conservative groups were subject to unjust treatment during the heavy targeting period that took place between 2010 and 2012.

The IRS is currently considering guidance very similar to what Lerner was allegedly pushing in secret. 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.

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