Campaign finance groups chide IRS chief

Campaign finance reform groups chided the IRS commissioner on Friday for saying that Congress has allowed certain tax-exempt groups to weigh in on political matters, insisting the tax agency allowed that to happen. 

John Koskinen, the IRS chief, said last week that "the framework that Congress has set up" allows 501(c)(4) groups to devote up to 49 percent of their resources to politics, according to Tax Analysts. 

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But Public Citizen, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 told Koskinen in a Friday letter that it was the IRS that allowed 501(c)(4)s, which where at the center of the agency's Tea Party controversy, to be involved in politics. 

The law passed by Congress, the groups noted, said those groups should be "exclusively" devoted to promoting social welfare. But IRS regulations say that social welfare must be the organizations' primary purpose, which has allowed 501(c)(4)s to spend up to 49 percent of their money on politics.

"Far from reflecting the 'framework' that Congress has established, the IRS regulation is in derogation of Congress’ mandate," the groups wrote.

Liberals and campaign finance reformers have suggested the difference between the law and IRS regulations played a role in the IRS's improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups. The IRS has been working on new regulations governing those groups, but GOP lawmakers slammed the one draft the agency released and have said the current rules weren't the problem in the Tea Party controversy.