The Internal Revenue Service–fresh off last year’s major power abuse scandal–has proposed new rules governing the activity of tax-exempt organizations that could have major implications for citizens trying to exercise their right to free speech. The proposed rules represent a new front in the agency’s crusade to crack down on foes of the Obama administration….
The proposed new IRS rules focus on nonprofit groups that are tax-exempt under section 501(c)(4)–defined as “social welfare” groups primarily concerned with raising public awareness on certain topics. These groups–which fall all over the political spectrum, but include the majority of Tea Party groups–are allowed to conduct “political activity” so long as that activity is not the primary focus of the organization. Thus, 501(c)(4) groups are allowed to praise and criticize candidates, nominees, legislation, and other aspects of the political process as they relate to their mission–and the contributions of these groups form an essential part of our political dialogue.