The House will soon consider H.R. 3865, which would prohibit the IRS from rushing a final rule regulating 501(c)(4) organizations in the middle of the current tax year. If the floor debate looks like the bill's markup in the Ways and Means Committee, it will be split right down party lines.
Republicans will condemn the IRS 501(c)(4) muzzle rule as a violation of free speech rights and an extension of the IRS targeting scandal by official means. Democrats will complain that the IRS targeting scandal has been exaggerated and insist the rule is an appropriate response to the horrors of "dark money." They will say "Koch brothers" a lot. Then they will all vote to let the IRS proceed.
If that is indeed what happens, it will be a sad commentary on the extent to which Democratic House members are willing to ignore their constituents to serve as a rubber stamp for President Obama's IRS.
Consider the comments from the ACLU, which is extremely critical of the proposed IRS rule: "Most social welfare organizations - on both the left and right - serve exactly that function as they see it, the promotion of social welfare and community good... and they should be able to do so freely, without fear of losing or being denied tax-exempt status, even if doing so could influence a citizen's vote. Such advocacy is at the heart of our representative democracy."
Cathy Duvall, the Sierra Club's director of strategic partnerships, told the Washington Post the proposed rule "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 public about toxic pollution."
The liberal umbrella Alliance for Justice is even more critical, writing: "Though the new definitions attempt to clarify existing rules, they also create a danger to citizen participation in our democracy... the rules would drastically reduce the ability of (c)(4)s to engage in nonpartisan get-out-the-vote drives, candidate questionnaires, and voter registration drives. These activities have been critical to the ability of nonprofits to influence the public policy debate on a wealth of issue."
The League of Conservation Voters recently rang an alarm bell, saying: "The devil is in the details. We want to make sure that any final rules do the right job of curtailing shadowy 'c4s' and don't end up hurting legitimate groups who represent large public constituencies."
As grassroots activists across the political spectrum have flooded the docket with an unprecedented number of comments opposing the proposed rule, the liberal group Common Cause sent out a call to its activists to send in supportive comments.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a columnist on Fox News Opinion, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the 2011 book Democracy Denied.
American Commitment is dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.
Washingtonian magazine named Mr. Kerpen to their "Guest List" in 2008 and The Hill newspaper named Mr. Kerpen a "Top Grassroots Lobbyist" in 2011.
Mr. Kerpen's op-eds have run in newspapers across the country and he is a frequent radio and television commentator on economic growth issues.
Prior to joining American Commitment, Mr. Kerpen served as vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Kerpen has also previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Kerpen currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife Joanna and their daughter Lilly.
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