Campaign finance groups want 'dark money' rules to stay

Almost a dozen campaign finance reform groups are urging lawmakers to oppose a bill that would delay new rules for tax-exempt groups proposed in the wake of last year’s IRS targeting controversy.

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The 11 groups say a measure to delay the new rules for 501(c)(4) groups – which the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to consider on Tuesday – would merely allow so-called “dark money” groups to keep their influence over the political process.

Treasury and the IRS released those proposed rules in November, roughly six months after the IRS acknowledged and apologized for singling out Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny.

“The delay will also continue the uncertainty that non-profit organizations on both sides of the aisle feel concerning the vague rules that currently exist,” wrote the groups, which include Democracy 21, Common Cause and Public Citizen.

Top GOP lawmakers have gone even further than seeking a delay in the rules, which they say would merely legitimize the targeting of conservative groups. Republican leaders in both parties urged the new IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, to withdraw the rules last week.

Koskinen has stressed that the rules have a ways to go before being finalized, with the public open to weigh in on the regulations until the end of this month. So far, well over 20,000 public comments on the new rules have been lodged.

Supporters of the regulations have said they would bring more clarity to the oversight of 501(c)(4) groups, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2012 election cycle.

The rules say that 501(c)(4)s cannot count so-called “candidate political activity” as part of their social welfare mission. But the proposals leave open to comment how much political activity those groups should be allowed to engage in.

In their letter, the pro-reform groups say that they agree that some changes need to be made to the rules, including not counting nonpartisan get out the vote efforts as candidate activity.

Other signers of the letter included Americans for Campaign Reform, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Demos, the League of Women Voters, the Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG.