McConnell bill prevents IRS ‘harassment’ of political groups

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republican senators announced their legislation Tuesday to stop the Internal Revenue Service from not granting nonprofit, tax-exempt status to political groups.

“No president of either party should use the power of the federal government to punish his ideological opponents,” McConnell said.

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The administration’s proposed rule change came after the IRS got into trouble last year for denying conservative groups the tax-exempt status.

“Instead of putting safeguards in place to protect our civil liberties, the Obama administration is now dragging the IRS back in the opposite direction,” McConnell said. “It’s now pushing a regulation that would actually entrench and encourage the harassment of groups that dare to speak up and engage in the conversation.”

Currently, 501(c)(4) organizations can engage in political activities on a limited basis, as long as their primary activity is the promotion of social welfare. In November, the IRS proposed new regulations that would no longer allow these organizations to engage in political activity and receive tax-exempt status. The final rules would take effect before the 2014 elections.

The Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act would delay the implementation of the rules for one year. The House Ways and Means Committee is considering companion legislation.

GOP Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Pat Roberts (Kan.) and John Cornyn (Texas) joined McConnell on the Senate floor Tuesday to roll out the bill.

Roberts said the rule proposed by the administration resembled something from a “counter espionage handbook.” And Hatch said it was an “affront to free speech.”

They called on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to halt the regulation but said their bill would be a “backup plan” to ensure Koskinen couldn’t enact the rule.

“Commissioner Koskinen could go down in history as a hero, just like the IRS Commissioner who stood up to Nixon and said no to harassment of political opponents,” McConnell said. “I want to believe that this is the choice he will make — that he wants to be remembered as a strong and independent public servant, rather than some political pawn.”

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