The fix seems to be in with the Internal Revenue Service, conservative organizations litigating against the agency say.
In a May 21, 2013 photo, Ted Stevenot, of Clermont County's Union Township carries a "Don't Tread on Me" flag as Cincinnati area Tea Party groups protest the IRS scrutinization of tax-exempt status during a rally in downtown Cincinnati. Stevenot, who announced a primary challenge to Gov. John Kasich backed out of the race Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, less than a week after saying he was in.In an emailed statement, Stevenot said he made the decision not to run based on discussions with family, friends, and advisers. (AP Photo/The Cincinnati Enquirer, Gary Landers)
Shortly after news that the lead Justice Department investigator in the IRS-targeting scandal was a big donor to President Barack Obama’s campaign, the Wall Street Journal first reported that the Justice Department would not bring criminal charges.
Days later, another Journal report said an IRS rule was a negotiating point during the negotiations over the $1 trillion omnibus bill that passed last week to prevent any chance of a government shutdown this year.
Democrats were willing to give up on extra funding for a pre-kindergarten program, more Obamacare money and funding for the International Monetary Fund to keep a pending IRS rule regulating nonprofit groups in place, the Journal reported.
“The administration, under the guidance of the IRS, is clearly seeking to codify the abuses in which they engaged against liberty groups,” Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Self Governance, told TheBlaze. “It's important to note that labor unions, the darlings of the left, would be excluded from these rules, thereby giving Democrats and the left an even greater structural advantage than they currently enjoy.”
Under the proposed new rules, a nonprofit group would not be eligible for tax-exempt status if it is clearly identified with a candidate or political party; communicates with or advocates for a candidate within 60 days of a general election and within 30 days of a general election; engages in voter registration drives or get out the vote drives, or holds events for candidates. Further, these groups will be required to report expenditures to the Federal Elections Commission.
By the agency’s own admission, from 2010 through 2012, the IRS gave extra scrutiny to numerous Tea Party and conservative organizations applying for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. Tea Party groups were asked questions about the content of their prayers, what books they read, and who they associated with, and waited an unusually long time for their applications to be processed.
Acting IRS Commissioner Stephen Miller resigned shortly before his interim appointment to the post had expired, while IRS exempt organizations division head Lois Lerner retired early.
Citizens for Self Governance is one of the groups suing the IRS for damages during the targeting scandal.
“In any event, based on passed history, we fully expect unequal enforcement of the rules, with the brunt of investigations and intimidation falling squarely on the shoulders of conservatives and tea party groups,” Meckler continued. “It is impossible to imagine any other way, based on recent history, and especially in light of recent leaks from the FBI stating that there will be no criminal prosecutions arising from IRS behavior despite the fact that none of the victims have been interviewed."
"None of this is a mistake; it is a methodology for silencing political opposition, and it is growing more insidious by the day."
Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said the regulations were created to provide clarity on what these nonprofit groups can be involved in. A 501(c)(3) is classified by the IRS as a social-welfare group, but these groups under this category from both the right and the left have engaged in political activity.
The rules do not require congressional approval, but will go through an administrative process that includes public hearings.
In a separate lawsuit over IRS abuse, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a conservative legal group, is representing 41 Tea Party groups.
“With this new rule, the administration wants to accomplish through legal means what they accomplished through illegal means for the last four year, and that is stifling political speech,” ACLJ senior counsel David French told TheBlaze.
French said if the rule is adopted, it would face a constitutional challenge in court.
“It would silence free speech and is a clear effort by a politically motivated agency to infringe on the rights of citizens,” French said.