On Friday, the IRS is scheduled to release rules that would significantly impact the rights of social welfare groups -- like Tea Party groups -- to participate in the political process. The IRS is attempting to sell the rules as a way to define more objectively how and whether these groups are engaging in political activity that would affect their tax status, but the truth is that it's little more than another way the Obama administration is trying to silence its critics.
IRS officials told congressional investigators that they applied a "facts and circumstances" test to decide whether activities were political. The proposed rules would replace that test with more objective criteria.
So, for example, any mention of a candidate within 60 days of a general election would be considered political, regardless of the context. The rule would even apply to mentions of a candidate that happened before the 60-day window, but which remained on an organization's website. But it wouldn't apply to third-party comments on the same site.
[C]onservatives argue that the rules would force groups engaging in constitutionally protected speech to disclose their donors, exposing them to political harassment. "With this move, the Obama administration opens a new front in its war against political dissent," he said.
But the issue isn't speech, watchdog groups say. It's about disclosure.
The proposal "provides hope that the IRS is going to shut down a huge loophole that has allowed political organizations to spend hundreds of millions of dollars without disclosing their donors," said Paul Ryan, senior counsel with the Campaign Legal Center, which has sued the IRS to clamp down on the political activity of tax-exempt groups.
In general, the right doesn't bully and harass those who hold political views that are different from theirs. They don't "organize" and Republican elected officials don't seek to ban a business because they disagree with the views of its owner. Those are some of the reasons that conservative groups welcome an opportunity to contribute to groups or causes they believe in without having to be threatened.
The point of the IRS regulations is to make this more difficult for conservatives, and limit their ability to oppose the administration in particular and liberalism in general. It's a continuation of the agency's war on administration critics.
And it's wrong.