Senate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure

The Senate on Wednesday approved a Democratic resolution that would overturn IRS guidance reducing the amount of donor information that certain tax-exempt groups have to provide to the agency.

The measure, sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), was approved by 50-49 vote. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined with Democrats in supporting the resolution, and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) didn’t vote.

The measure now moves to the House, but a GOP aide said House Republicans aren’t planning to hold a vote on it this year. Even if the House approves it, President Trump would likely veto the resolution.

{mosads}Tester and Wyden offered the resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows lawmakers to disapprove of recent guidance from federal agencies. Senators can make a motion to proceed to a CRA resolution if the measure has written support from at least 30 senators.

The IRS and Treasury Department in July released guidance that ended a requirement for certain tax-exempt groups to provide the IRS with the names and addresses of major donors on an annual basis. Groups that no longer have to provide the information include social-welfare organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as labor unions and business groups.

Democrats have been strongly opposed to the guidance and are concerned it could lead to an influx of “dark money” donations by foreign governments in U.S. politics.

“The rule change the Trump administration pushed through this summer is not about sunlight, it’s all about darkness. It’s about secrecy,” Wyden said Wednesday. “It’s about giving the well-connected even more of a say in how American government works.”

Tester said the Trump administration’s policy “created another safe haven for this country’s wealthiest donors to hide in the shadows while they pull the levers of power in our democracy.”

The administration and GOP lawmakers have cheered the guidance, saying it helps protect taxpayer privacy, is not needed for tax enforcement and helps prevent taxpayers from being targeted for their political beliefs.

“In a climate that is increasingly hostile to certain kinds of political expression and open debate, the last thing Washington needs to do is to chill the exercise of free speech and add to the sense of intimidation,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

–Updated at 2:22 p.m.

Tags Congressional Review Act Donald Trump Guidance IRS Jon Tester Mitch McConnell Ron Wyden Susan Collins Thom Tillis

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