Camp seeks to block new IRS rules

The House’s top tax writer is pushing to block new Obama regulations for the types of groups at the center of the IRS’s targeting controversy.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) introduced legislation on Tuesday that would delay the new proposed rules for 501(c)(4) groups — released by the Treasury Department and IRS in November — for a year.

Camp says the extra year will give more breathing room to investigations into the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups, which the agency acknowledged in May 2013.

But the legislation — along with heated GOP reactions to reports this week that a federal probe was unlikely to lead to criminal charges — underscores that top Republicans on Capitol Hill remain unhappy with the White House’s response to the IRS targeting.

“It is premature to publish new rules before getting all of the facts,” Camp said in a statement. “Congress must make sure every American’s right to participate and engage in civic debate is protected, and this legislation will provide some much-needed assurance that IRS targeting and surveillance will not continue.”

The new rules for 501(c)(4) groups would clarify that activity for or against political candidates does not count toward those organizations’ stated goal of promoting social welfare.

The administration is looking for input on how much social welfare work 501(c)(4) groups should be engaged in to qualify for the tax-exempt status.

Camp and other top GOP lawmakers immediately criticized the rules when they were proposed last year, in large part because the regulations came before a range of probes into the IRS targeting had been completed.

Russell George, the Treasury inspector general who outlined the IRS’s treatment of Tea Party groups, called on the agency to implement clearer rules overseeing 501(c)(4) groups. Democrats and campaign finance reformers have also said that hazy rules helped drive the IRS’s behavior, which they say also extended to some liberal groups.

The law, for instance, says that 501(c)(4)s should exclusively be social welfare groups, while regulations say that should be the organizations’ primary purpose.

But Camp says the new rules would restrict those groups’ First Amendment rights, and don’t extend to organized labor.

“The administration’s proposed rules openly target groups that are exercising their First Amendment rights,” Camp said. “We cannot allow these draft regulations to go into effect.”