February 11, 2014
Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) today joined Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in introducing a bill that would protect First Amendment rights of 501(c)(4) organizations by suspending the finalization of a proposed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rule that would limit the advocacy activities of these groups. The Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by The IRS Act of 2014 also would prevent any additional targeting of such organizations by restoring the IRS standards in place prior to the agency’s scrutiny of conservative groups in 2010.
“The discrimination against these groups by government officials not only is a violation of our Constitution, but it is also contrary to the foundation on which our nation was built,” said Coats. “The proposed IRS rule would open the door for more potential targeting of Americans exercising their freedom of speech. Our legislation would preserve First Amendment rights and encourage the IRS to return to its focus of being a non-partisan tax agency, rather than a regulator of speech.”
Last year, Coats called for an investigation into the IRS following reports that the agency targeted conservative groups – including at least one in Indiana – for extra scrutiny based on their political leanings. Coats supported The Taxpayer Nondiscrimination & Protection Act of 2013, which would have authorized mandatory termination and criminal liability for IRS employees who violate the constitutional rights of American taxpayers.
The Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by The IRS Act of 2014 was introduced by 39 Republican senators.
The proposed IRS rule broadly defines 501(c)(4) political activity to include voter registration, voter education, communications that mention a candidate or party, grants to 527s, and events in which a candidate participates, among other activities. Even non-partisan activities would be limited. The proposed IRS regulation specifically singles out 501(c)(4) organizations, but it does not apply to other nonprofit organizations such as charities, labor unions or trade associations.
On May 14, 2013, the Department of Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration released a report concluding that the IRS had inappropriately targeted conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. Congressional and Department of Justice investigations are still ongoing.