IRS Seeks New Power To Limit Free Speech
They were busted for this last year. So now they want to make it part of their full time job? And predictably, labor unions are exempt.
In the draft regulation, the IRS treats any message that mentions a candidate within 60 days of an election or 30 days before a primary as political activity. Ditto for any communication that could be construed as supporting or opposing a candidate, anytime. So if a group wanted to say, "Call Sen. Jones and tell her we need the F-35 fighter," the ad would go down as political, even if Sen. Jones chairs the defense appropriations subcommittee and has announced she won't run for re-election five years from now.
Not only that, but a lot of public service engagement would fall on the wrong side of the IRS line. Voter registration, sponsorship of debates, voter education projects – all would be discouraged.
Conservatives are naturally upset by what they perceive as an effort to silence them. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the rules "would essentially allow the IRS to bully and intimidate Americans who exercise their right of free speech."
But the proposal has drawn strong criticism from plenty of liberal groups too. The Sierra Club said it "harms efforts that have nothing to do with politics, from our ability to communicate with our members about clean air and water to our efforts to educate the p ublic about toxic pollution."
The American Civil Liberties Union said it "could pose a chilling effect on issue advocacy" to the disproportionate detriment of "small, poor nonprofits that cannot afford the legal counsel to guarantee compliance." Labor unions, which do not fall under the regulations, fear that someday they will be included.