Republican Leaders Fight Back Against IRS Power Grab
By Matthew Vadum
Republicans are fighting back against proposed new IRS rules that they say would make formal the tax agency’s infamous crackdown on Tea Party groups that oppose the Obama agenda, stripping them of their free speech rights during election cycles.
“Every American needs to know about this abuse of power,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said in a recent speech on the Senate floor. “Let me be clear: What the administration is proposing poses a grave threat to the ability of ordinary Americans to freely participate in the Democratic process.”
The new rules, first unveiled around Thanksgiving when no one was paying attention, would prevent so-called 501c4 advocacy groups from participating in certain kinds of political activity. Such nonprofit organizations would be prevented from communicating with voters about candidates or political parties within 60 days of a general election.
On the House side, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Dave Camp (Mich.), and Hal Rogers (Ky.) have signed a letter asking newly minted IRS chief John Koskinen to kill new proposed regulations dating from November that they say are intended to silence conservative groups.
On the Senate side, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Minority Whip John Cornyn (Texas), John Thune (S.D.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), and Richard Shelby (Ala.) also signed the letter that suggests Koskinen would be perceived as a puppet of the Obama White House if he didn’t pull back from the regulations. In the Obama era IRS officials have been accused of spending an inordinate amount of time at the White House and getting far too cozy with top administration figures.
“It is our view that finalizing this proposed rule would make intimidation and harassment of the administration’s political opponents the official policy of the IRS and would allow the Obama administration to use your agency as a partisan tool,” the lawmakers said in the letter.
“This would be a serious error, especially in the light of the recent track record of intimidation at the IRS. It would also cement your reputation as someone who is unable or unwilling to restore the public’s faith in this important agency.”
Although Koskinen, who was sworn in as IRS Commissioner on Dec. 23, said he did not participate in drafting the rules, he has refused Republican demands to block their implementation.
“Everyone can make comments about our draft regulations as they are now,” Koskinen said in testimony before a House Ways and Means subcommittee last week.
“There will be a public hearing,” he said. “There will be numerous occasions for people to bring any information that they would like, or perspectives, about those regulations forward before they are finalized. And they’re not going to be finalized in the near-term future,” he added, noting that the administration had received 21,000 comments on the regulations.
According to FreedomWorks, the proposed IRS guidelines would restrict the political activities of tax-exempt 501c4 organizations, expand the already unchecked discretionary power of the IRS, and institutionalize the agency’s targeted harassment of conservative and libertarian nonprofits in the Obama era.
These “draconian IRS regulations … would make it virtually impossible for tea parties that want to participate in the political process to do their business,” said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks.
“They’re going after conservative groups, they’re going after libertarian groups, and they’re going after citizen groups that want to organize people based on the values of the constitution; based on the ideas of freedom and have an impact on the political conversation. If that sounds familiar, what they’re doing is formalizing the same persecution, the same targeting that we saw coming out of the IRS leading up to the 2012 election.”
What most of the news coverage of the sordid IRS saga misses is that Democrats are angry about Republican-friendly nonprofits. They are upset that nonprofits that oppose Obama are allowed to exist at all. They use specious arguments to justify the Obama administration’s increasingly naked repression of its domestic political enemies.
Democrats correctly view Tea Party groups, that is, right-wing populist groups, as an existential threat to the Left. These nonprofits tend to be Republican-leaning organizations and they have been successful so far in derailing, or at least slowing, parts of President Obama’s ongoing transmogrification of America.
Democrats don’t want any conservative nonprofits to enjoy tax-exempt status. Such nonprofits are all working against the Left, standing in the way and preventing America from becoming a leftist utopia.
Using the IRS to hurt right-of-center groups is fair game, according to left-wingers. President Obama can’t even bring himself to admit that what happened at the IRS was corrupt.
In an embarrassing television interview that aired Super Bowl Sunday, Obama lied shamelessly to save his skin in the horrendous IRS targeting scandal that could yet cost him the presidency. There was “not a smidgen of corruption” in the IRS saga, Obama told an incredulous Bill O’Reilly in the on-air mendacity marathon as he smeared Fox News Channel and blamed the network, instead of his own misdeeds, for his deepening political woes.
In fact we now know that officials at the highest level of the Obama administration had been conspiring for years, plotting a Chicago thug-style knee-capping of conservative opposition groups.
A congressional hearing revealed last week that the IRS was planning to justify unfairly targeting nonprofit anti-Obama groups as early as 2012, long before a government watchdog exposed the depth of the targeting.
The smoking gun came in the form of an email from Treasury Department tax policy attorney Ruth Madrigal to several IRS officials including the infamous Lois Lerner who invoked the Fifth Amendment’s non-incrimination privilege to avoid coming clean during a high-profile congressional inquiry.
“Don’t know who in your organizations is keeping tabs on c4s,” Madrigal wrote, referring to the tax-exempt Tea Party groups recognized under section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax code, “but since we mentioned potentially addressing them (off plan) in 2013, I’ve got my radar up and this seemed interesting.”
Congressional tax-writing chief Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said Madrigal’s missive meant that new rules were not being developed as a “remedy to the target[ing]” that took place in 2011 and 2012. “I’m pretty sure [off-plan] means ‘hidden from the public,’” said Camp, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Investigators still haven’t interviewed many conservative groups that were denied tax-exempt status while their liberal counterparts sailed through the nonprofit status-granting process.