IRS Seeking to Regulate “Political Speech” for Conservative Groups

February 4, 2014

IRSby Nathan A. Cherry

Have you ever read a voter guide? Have you ever perused a legislative scorecard? Maybe you are one of the many Americans that have helped with a voter registration drive because you believe every citizen should be involved in electing their lawmakers.

The next question is who should be allowed to perform these tasks?

Putting together a voter guide or a legislative scorecard seems fairly mundane. Few people or organizations bother with it because it’s a straightforward activity that leaves no room for subjective opinion. A voter guide show how specific candidates rank based on their views of certain issues. So, for example, a pro-life organization might put together a voter guide that shows how candidates voted on bills relating to life issues. If candidates vote in favor of defending life as sacred the pro-life organization will rank them higher and urge support for such candidates. If a candidate votes in favor of measures that support abortion they will receive a lesser ranking.

Legislative scorecards work the same way and are generally done by state groups seeking to inform voters on how their state lawmakers voted during the legislative session. Click here to view a legislative scorecard from a group in Illinois.

So, back to that original question, who should be allowed to compile and distribute information like voter guides and legislative scorecards?

The logical, common sense answer is that anyone should be allowed to distribute such information. As long as the information is verifiable and true there should be no regulation stipulating who can and cannot distribute a voter guide or legislative scorecard. Furthermore, anyone should be allowed to state who they support as a candidate and urge others to educate themselves before voting. And yet, the IRS is proposing new rules that would limit such activities for non-profits.

The American Family Association commented on these proposed rules:

“The IRS is proposing regulations that will give them the authority to restrict voter guides, legislative scorecards, get-out-the-vote campaigns and even the voter registration activities of non-profit groups by defining such civic engagement as “candidate-related political activity…American Family Association General Counsel Patrick Vaughn says, ‘The proposed regulations are consistent with the IRS’ scandalous suppression of Tea Party applications for tax exemption. The IRS seems to have decided that it may have to process Tea Party applications, but it can render the organizations impotent.’”

Frankly this is an attempt to silence critics of the liberal, big-government social agenda being forced on Americans. Those that would dare speak up for traditional values are under attack and this is just the latest battle. The IRS knows that voter guides and legislative scorecards are tools of conservative groups because liberals do their best to keep their voting record a secret. Liberals want to keep information in the hands of a few, the liberals, while the rest of America blindly follows. Conservative groups seek transparency and accountability and seek to hold lawmakers accountable through these tools.

So who would this affect most? Groups such as the American Family Association, Family Research Council, and other conservative groups would be prohibited from letting people know how their lawmakers voted. These same groups would also be prohibited from evaluating candidates based on their position on issues such as life, marriage, and religious freedom.

If restrictions like these are placed on us, who will hold the government accountable?

If the IRS can silence those seeking to keep the government transparent and accountable through regulations, how long before the government, through the IRS, does the same to churches? How long before the IRS decides that talking about marriage is considered “political speech” and not legal for a church? It seems a stretch of the imagination to think of such events, but after all we’ve seen over the last few years is it really out of the question?

The government has no business telling anyone that they cannot distribute information freely. This attempt by the IRS to silence conservative groups is yet another example of government overreach. Before such restrictions are enacted we must take action and let the IRS know they are out of bounds. We encourage you to read the sample letter below and consider copying and pasting it to the IRS Comment Site where it will be logged. Let your voice be heard.

SAMPLE LETTER:

I urge the IRS to reject proposed regulations found in REG-134417-13. It would restrict good citizenship by redefining all voter registration, non-partisan voter guides, legislative records, candidate debates or forums, get-out-the-vote reminders, even the mention of any issue that has been raised by a candidate as regulated political activity.

In addition, the proposed regulation will stifle the ability of non-profit groups to inform citizens about the Administration’s judicial and political appointment by redefining those nominees as political candidates.  This provision of the proposal has nothing to do with accountability for election spending. It will however reduce the Administration’s accountability to the public.  Citizens have the right to hear more than the Administration’s line regarding what philosophies, policies, agendas political appointees represent.

Most concerning, REG-134417-13 gives the appearance that the IRS is trying to adopt regulations to achieve the same goals that motivated it to hold-up granting the applications of conservative organizations and launch intrusive investigations of Tea Party applicants.

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