IRS Regulations Disrespect the Political Process

Perhaps the most striking thing about the last five years under the Obama administration has been the “win at any cost” strategy employed by the White House, and the Senate under the leadership of Harry Reid. Rather than the tried and true tactics of bipartisan negotiation and building consensus, the new normal for Washington insiders has been to ram through whatever initiatives they like by whatever means possible.

In the Senate, we have seen Sen. Reid employing arcane loopholes to confirm judicial appointments with a simple majority, stripping the minority party of its right to debate the issue until consensus can be reached. In the Executive Branch, the president has taken to governing by executive order, bypassing the lawmaking process as it is supposed to occur.and at times shutting Congress wholly out of the decision making process.

But worst of all are the regulatory agencies, headed by unelected, unaccountable czars, who are free to issue any number of fiats using nothing but their own discretion. The most recent of these is the outrageous attempt by the Internal Revenue Service to redefine the nature and scope of tax exempt 501(c)(4) organizations in the middle of an election year.

In previous election cycles, including the two in which President Obama successfully won the White House, these groups played a major role in mobilizing and informing voters, and the president was more than happy to accept their help. Now, however, the balance of power has shifted. Organizations representing the tea party ideals of limited government have proven themselves to be a formidable force in the American political landscape, and in the face of the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act and an economy that stubbornly refuses to improve, the administration is looking for a way to shift the odds in 2014.

The new IRS regulation requires that 501(c)(4)s devote the majority of their activities to “social welfare,” where social welfare remains a vaguely-defined term to be determined at the discretion of the IRS. This effectively allows the agency to punish any group it chooses with the denial of tax exemptions, based on an undefined term that could literally mean anything. It is a system that appears to be designed specifically with abuse in mind, and coming on the heels of the IRS’ confessed targeting of tea party groups in the 2012 election, the motivations for the regulation could not be more clear. The moxie required for such a blatant power grab would be almost admirable if it weren’t so scary.

When the IRS got caught interfering in 2012, they placed themselves firmly in opposition to American voters and, indeed, democracy itself. It should therefore not be surprising that the agency should now try to protect itself by rigging elections in favor of friendly incumbents. Bureaucrats are primarily motivated by the preservation of their own power, and nothing is more threatening to that power than public outrage in an election year. Like a cornered animal, the IRS will do anything it can to protect itself by stifling the voices of those who would limit their authority.

In keeping with the administration’s distaste for openness and transparency, the new regulation was first announced on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, when the minds of most Americans were fixated on turkey and stuffing than on regulatory shenanigans. By the time the press picked up on the story (which most news outlets still haven’t) the comment period was already half over, giving groups precious little time to defend their First Amendment rights to political speech.

Recognizing that midterm elections typically flip against the incumbent, the IRS is pulling out all the stops to protect itself and its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill. As an unaccountable regulatory agency, the IRS is effectively changing the rules in the middle of a game in which it has a large stake. In any other situation, this would be considered blatant cheating. In politics, it is business as usual.

Don’t let the IRS get away with rigging the system to silence its political opponents. The comment period for the regulation closes on February 27, so we have to act fast. Go to to demand public hearings for this unjust rule, and make your voice heard in Washington.

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