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Proposed IRS Rules Would Stifle Free Speech

As you may have heard, the IRS has proposed new rules that would severely restrict grassroots advocacy groups.

Under current IRS rules, the purpose of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations is educate the public and promote "social welfare" causes, and they can't work primarily as political campaign organizations. Many 501(c)(4) entities are small grassroots organizations ran by local activists that want to participate in the political process.

The proposed rules would modify the definition of political activity for non-profit organizations.

Under the proposed IRS rules, here are some things that would be considered political activity:

  • Nonpartisan candidate forums that take place 30 days before a primary
  • Nonpartisan candidate forums that take place 60 days before an election
  • Any communication mentioning a political candidate or political party within 60 days of an election
  • Nonpartisan civic engagement activities
  • Voter registration drives
  • Voter education and the preparation and distribution of voter guides mentioning candidates
  • Get out the vote efforts and distribution of certain materials promoting candidates
  • Calling for the election or defeat of a political candidate
  • Any expenditure that must be reported to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC)
  • Grants and contributions made by the group to any political group that reports to the FEC
  • Grants and contributions made by the group to any 527 or tax exempt group that spends money on candidate-related political activity

The proposed IRS rules are confusing and overly bureaucratic. Many non-profit organizers will have to hire lawyers in order to ensure that they are complying with the complicated rules. Some well-intended activists will undoubtedly break the unclear laws without even knowing it.

FreedomWorks has been encouraging our members to submit comments to the IRS opposing these regulations that will further stifle free speech. Click here to submit your comment to the IRS. The IRS’s deadline for public responses is February 27, 2014.

The IRS shouldn’t be discouraging citizens from participating in the political process and helping to inform voters about their choices. Let’s stop the IRS from infringing on our constitutional right to free speech.

KermodeBear's picture
Jonathan Miller

I am a very simple person with a very simple brain.

Aside from simply being against more regulations, I don't really understand the full implications of these changes. Could you please explain what kind of activity would no longer be allowed and how this favors certain kinds of speech while restricting other kinds of speech? How would this be bad for Tea Party X but not affect Progressive Communist Organization Y?

I can optimize databases, parse many kinds of data, and architect solutions for all manner of computer things, but when it comes to legalize my brain grinds to a halt. It's unintelligible to me. I want to fully understand what is happening here.

Kent Phillips

I'm no lawyer, but doesn't it seem unlikely this would pass the Supreme Court after Citizens United v FEC?


Not sure what good a comment will do but here I go. We could handle this problem really quick if the congress would just get rid of the IRS. This is an agency that has ran a muck and needs removed.