By Bernie Becker - 05/18/11 09:25 PM EDT
501(c)(4)s have become a popular way for some politically minded groups to organize. The groups are not required to publicly name their donors, but most of their work cannot be classified as political.
The IRS has indicated that its move was made by “career civil servants,” that the decision-making process happened solely within the agency and that the new examinations were not part of a broader look at 501(c)(4)s. But the six GOP senators — who include Orrin Hatch of Utah, the Finance panel’s ranking member — still appear skeptical.
“We would expect that decisions regarding particular enforcement actions would be made by career civil servants,” wrote the senators, who also sounded concerned about the possible retroactive enforcement of the gift tax. “The more pressing question, not answered to date, is whether political appointees inside or outside the IRS were involved in any way in the decision to prioritize this category of cases.”
The Finance senators asked for the names of IRS officials who worked on the issue, as well as any correspondence between the agency and the White House and Treasury Department. They also are seeking, by the end of the month, any examination of First Amendment implications of enforcing the gift tax on 501(c)(4)s by the IRS .
In addition to Hatch, the GOP letter was signed by Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican; Pat Roberts of Kansas; John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee; John Thune of South Dakota; and Richard Burr of North Carolina, the panel’s newest member.