Obama tacitly approves of proposed IRS regulations with veto threat

The White House has threatened to veto a measure that would temporarily delay proposed regulations under consideration by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that would ostensibly legitimatize and institutionalize its targeting of conservative groups.

The Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act (H.R. 3865), proposed last month by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), would halt the IRS from implementing the guidance for one year. The measure has the support of more than 55 conservative groups — including Americans for Tax Reform, Campaign for Liberty, Heritage Action, and the National Taxpayers Union.

Through a policy statement released on Monday, the White House relied its threat to veto the measure, laying the path for the IRS to do as it pleases.

“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3865, which would prohibit the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from clarifying the standards that organizations must satisfy to qualify for tax-exempt status,” the White House wrote in the statement. “Under current law, organizations qualify as tax-exempt organizations ‘operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare’ if they are primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people.”

“The relevant Treasury and IRS rules have been in place since 1959 and are broadly recognized as unclear. The proposed legislation would prevent any revisions or clarifications to those rules,” the statement continued. ”Thus, it could prevent the IRS from administering the tax code more effectively and from providing greater clarity to organizations seeking tax-exempt status.”

The proposed rules candidate-related political activity would include “[c]ommunications that expressly advocate for a clearly identified political candidate or candidates of a political party” and “communications that are made within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) and clearly identify a candidate or political party.”

The proposed rules would also consider “get-out-the-vote” drives, voter guides, and scorecards as candidate-related activity. The IRS’s justification for the rules is that they would “reduce the need to conduct fact-intensive inquiries, including inquiries into whether activities or communications are neutral and unbiased.”

Though the White House notes that the IRS is merely considering the proposed rules, the statement of policy against a measure that would prevent them from being implemented is tacit approval.

“The notice and comment process allows for all concerned parties to provide input and comments before any changes to the rules are effected,” the White House wrote in the statement. “Treasury and the IRS will carefully consider any and all such comments before issuing any further guidance, and they will follow standard agency rulemaking procedures.”

“[T]he Administration strongly opposes the proposed legislation. If the President were presented with H.R. 3865, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” the White House added.

FreedomWorks, a conservative grassroots service center, strongly opposes the proposed rules and has submitted its public comment to the IRS.

“It’s not the IRS’s responsibility to determine what constitutes a ‘social welfare group,’” said Adam Brandon, executive vice president of FreedomWorks. “It’s not their responsibility to intimidate individual Americans who are trying to partake in their basic civic duties, and it’s certainly not their responsibility to figure out ways to regulate specific kinds of groups out of existence.

“This isn’t a partisan issue- it’s a matter of free speech. Today it’s conservative and tea party groups, but a couple years down the road it could be another demographic of Americans facing this kind of bureaucratic censorship,” he added.

FreedomWorks is calling on the IRS to conduct field hearings that “would allow citizens to testify and voice their concerns with the proposed rules changes.”

The House of Representatives passed the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act on Wednesday afternoon in a 243 to 176 vote.

The IRS will close public comment on the propose regulations at the end of business today — Thursday, February 27. The tax agency will likely make its final ruling at some point in the next few months. If you’d like to comment, you can do so through IRSTarget.com.

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