GOP senators press IRS to keep nonprofit donors secret

"The privacy interests of donors is widely recognized and valued. Various public policy initiatives have rightly encouraged donations to social welfare organizations, and these efforts are threatened when private information about donors is not adequately protected," the letter states.

The new letter, from Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchTen senators ask FCC to delay box plan An affordable housing solution both parties can get behind Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate MORE (R-Utah) and other GOP senators, says that, by requesting the confidential donor names, the agency has set in motion a process that will result in the names being available for public viewing at the IRS when the investigated groups are approved to become a 501(c)(4).

"The IRS appears to be circumventing the statutory privacy protections that Congress has long provided donors," exposing the donors to "possible harassment," the Republicans said."The public release of private donor information exposes citizens to possible harassment and intimidation by those who oppose the goals of the charitable organization."

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been clashing over 501(c)(4) and other tax-exempt groups, some of which are spending millions of dollars this year on election advertising. 

The IRS currently says that the primary purpose of 501(c)(4) groups should not be political, which has led some legal analysts to assert that those organizations should use less than 50 percent of their budget on political causes.  

Watchdogs argue groups are misusing the 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status to keep their donors secret as they spend millions on election ads. 

The Republican senators requested that the IRS provide the statutory authority to require donor names, the frequency of requests for the information, and which officials were involved in requesting and approving the "questions requesting donor names," among other issues.

Along with Hatch, the Republican senators who signed the letter were Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellIn House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable McConnell: Trump White House will have ‘constraints’ Nearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo MORE (Ky.), Mike EnziMike EnziGOP blocks slate of Obama judicial nominees Overnight Finance: New rules proposed to curb Wall Street pay GOP senator tries to tie 'No budget, no pay' to funding bill MORE (Wyo.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenate backs equal pay for female soccer players Overnight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left Overnight Regulation: GOP slams new Obama education rules MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynClinton email headache is about to get worse Overnight Tech: House GOP launches probe into phone, internet subsidies Senators hope for deal soon on mental health bill MORE (Texas), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerRubio: 'Maybe' would run for Senate seat if 'good friend' wasn't McConnell-allied group: We'll back Rubio if he runs for reelection The Trail 2016: Interleague play MORE (Tenn.), Pat RobertsPat RobertsGOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo Passing the Kelsey Smith Act will help law enforcement save lives Overnight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo MORE (Kan.), John ThuneJohn ThuneHow airport security lines got so bad Self-driving cars: The next great leap in automotive safety Overnight Tech: Senate panel poised to advance email privacy bill MORE (S.D.) and Rand PaulRand PaulOvernight Energy: Trump outlines 'America First' energy plan in North Dakota Overnight Regulation: GOP slams new Obama education rules Paul blocks chemical safety bill in Senate MORE (Ky.).

— Bernie Becker contributed to this report.

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