Poll: Voters support stronger nonprofit rules

The vast majority of voters want rules to clearly state how much political activity non-profits can carry out, according to a new poll.

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In all, 86 percent of voters believe strong rules are important, including almost six in 10 who think that’s very important.

The poll, conducted for the good government group Public Citizen and the conservative Hudson Institute, also found that eight in 10 voters believe it’s an issue that political operatives and donors take advantage of vague and blurry rules.

The rules governing political activity for non-profit groups is at the center of the current controversy surrounding the IRS, which has acknowledged that it improperly scrutinized Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status.

John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, said this year that the agency would take another shot at rewriting the rules governing those groups, which are likely to come at some point in 2015.

Republicans and conservative groups had sharply criticized those rules, insisting they would essentially ratify the singling out of Tea Party groups and limit free speech. GOP lawmakers have also said the rules weren’t the issue, and that former IRS official Lois Lerner and the agency displayed a bias against conservatives.

Democrats have called the current set-up a problem, noting that the law governing those groups says they should work exclusively on social welfare issues. IRS regulations, on the other hand, say social welfare should be the groups’ primary purpose.

The poll, from the Democratic firm Lake Research Partners, found that support for stronger rules for nonprofits and political activity came from across the political spectrum.

Voters, the poll found, still favored stronger rules after hearing the argument that they would limit free speech.