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Readers’ Corner: IRS Issues New Rule Censoring Free Speech 1/14/14 via ANH


senior member
Concord, NH
What’s at Stake: Meaningful Political Dialogue
501(c)(4)s serve as the boots- and ears-on-the-ground for concerned citizens. We serve as your voice on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures, and at high-level agency meetings. We work to stop the bills and regulations that would, for example, prevent your access to healthy foods and dietary supplements. A summary of the threats we have faced in recent years and our accomplishments in fighting off those threats is available here.

By limiting the political activities of 501(c)(4)s, the only remaining political influences will be the huge industries (Big Pharma, Big Agro, and Big Biotech included), unions, and other special interests that can afford to make enormous political contributions and hire expensive lobbyists. In 2013 alone, PhRMA—the leading advocacy organization for the drug industry—spent nearly $14 million in lobbying expenditures.

501(c)(4) Abuse: Will the IRS’s New Rules Help?
As many of our readers pointed out, the exploitation of 501(c)(4) status is of serious concern. However, the IRS’s new rules will not stop abuse—it will simply threaten your right to be heard and represented by grassroots organizations. In addition, the new rules only address 501(c)(4) nonprofits, ignoring 501(c)(6) and 501(c)(3) organizations, which can also be abused. Those who wish to abuse the tax-exempt framework will simply move to other tax-exempt categories.

Even the IRS doesn’t think the new rules will work. In the words of former Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, even if new IRS rules concerning 501(c)(4)s were implemented, “We would have a hard time parsing what’s [directly engaging in electoral] politics and what’s not.”

The IRS’s new rules also address the wrong kind of political activity. For example, ANH-USA doesn’t take positions on candidates during elections. Our advocacy is issue-based, not politician-based, and certainly not party-based. We are completely nonpartisan and have members who support different parties.

This means we support or criticize the individual decisions of elected representatives. We don’t “bet on a horse” hoping they remember us once their seat is secure. The IRS seems to be primarily concerned with campaign spending, but these new rules don’t reflect that.

The IRS already has the ability, the authority, and all the information it needs to ensure nonprofits are law abiding. It’s wrong that a powerful government agency, instead of exercising its current authority by investigating where facts dictate, would plan to remove free speech protections for an entire group of nonprofits.

Action Alert! The IRS has no business in politics. Tell the agency to rescind this political gag order and protect the right of political dissenters and organizations that represent individuals like you! Please send your message to the IRS immediately—the deadline for comments is next month!