Even with so many unanswered questions still surrounding the Internal Revenue Service targeting scandal, Democrats are demanding the tax agency be even more aggressive in monitoring spending from outside groups going into the 2014 midterm elections.
“There are two things you don’t want in political money, in the fundraising world and expenditure world,” Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) told The Hill newspaper. “You don’t want secret money, and you don’t want unlimited money, and that’s what we have now.”
Pryor is considered among the most endangered Senate Democrats up for re-election this year.
But that’s no reason to attack the First Amendment rights of citizen groups, said Washington attorney Cleta Mitchell, who is suing on behalf of several conservative organizations given extra scrutiny by the IRS in the 2012 election cycle.
“It is absolutely outrageous that these elected officials are distressed about having a citizens group discuss their voting records – and then calling on the IRS or any agency of government to ‘protect’ them from having to explain, justify or defend their voting records in Congress,” Mitchell told TheBlaze.
Mitchell said that insurance companies supporting Obamacare are outspending citizen groups opposed to the law, generating little outcry from Democrats.
“This is really disturbing on so many, many levels,” Mitchell continued. “That any elected official could get away with whining about having his/her record displayed publicly is an unbelievable departure from the basic foundation on which this nation was built.”
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) told The Hill that the tax-exempt groups must adhere to certain rules.
“If they’re claiming the tax relief, the tax benefit to be a nonprofit for social relief or social justice, then that’s what they should be doing,” said Begich, who is also in a competitive race. “If it’s to give them cover so they can do political activity, that’s abusing the tax code. And either side.”
Responding to the Democrats’ public call, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted: “In light of the #IRS targeting scandal, the last thing we should do is give the IRS more power to suppress speech.”
But Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) called the spending by 501(c )(4) social welfare groups on electioneering is “outrageous,” and insisted it isn’t partisan. Shaheen may face for Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown this year.
“Both on the left and the right,” she told The Hill. “As taxpayers, we should not be providing a write-off to groups to do political activity, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
But it’s actually both the left and the right who have some concerns about the pending IRS rules that would limit what these groups can say 60 days before a general election and how much they can spend on political advertising, The New York Times reported.
Liberal groups joining the Tea Party objections include the ACLU and the liberal Alliance for Justice filed complaints with the IRS opposing the regulations.
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced legislation to postpone the IRS regulations for a year.
But other liberal groups want to see the regulations enacted.
“These are certainly imperfect rules, but the I.R.S. has to figure out how you differentiate bona fide social welfare organizations from these phantom (c)(4)’s that are doing nothing but abusing the tax laws,” Stephen Spaulding, counsel to Common Cause, told the Times.
Todd Cefaratti, founder of TheTeaParty.net, said for Democrats to publicly prod the IRS for more action proves politicization.
“As if we needed more evidence that Democrats are using the IRS as a political tool, we now have sitting members of Congress admitting they’d like to suppress our voices so they can win elections,” Cefaratti said in a statement Thursday. “This is even more brazen targeting than what we endured during the first years of the Obama administration.”