WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Non-profit groups must prepare to fight back [against] the IRS on yet a second front,” warns Cleta Mitchell, a partner in the Washington-based law firm Foley & Lardner LLP, well-known for providing expert legal advise to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
In discussions throughout the Capitol, Mitchell has expressed her concern new rules proposed by the IRS demonstrate once again the Obama administration is determined to keep tea-party groups from having the type of impact on the mid-term elections this November that they had in 2010, when Republicans grabbed majority control of the House of Representatives.
“This is a real assault on the First Amendment rights of American citizens, and we need to do everything we can to stop the IRS from implementing these new rules,” Mitchell says.
Mitchell has produced in a YouTube video a briefing in which she explains the goal of the IRS is to limit the free speech of conservative groups:
She is urging conservatives groups and individuals to file comments with the IRS right away, arguing it is “impractical, burdensome and unacceptable for the IRS to interject itself into the workings of every citizens group in the country.”
The legally constituted function of the IRS, Mitchell argues, is to collect tax revenues, “not to snoop and trample on First Amendment rights of the citizens.”
At stake this November is the possibility conservative tax-exempt groups campaigning for conservative Republican candidates for Congress might increase the Republican majority in the House and grab enough seats in the Senate to topple the current Democratic Party majority, she explains.
The Democrats in Congress appear this year to be particularly vulnerable given the debacle witnessed by the nation in the Obamacare implementation plus increasing economic data that shows job growth slowing, with historic numbers of Americans dropping out of the labor force.
How to file comments opposing IRS proposed rule
Conservative groups or individuals may submit comments electronically opposing the proposed rule changes at Regulations.gov, searching for the citation IRS REG-134417-13, an Internet search that yields a page entitled “Guidance for Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Organization on Candidate-Related Political Activities.”
The proposed rules can be found published in the Federal Register here, again under the title “Guidance for Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Organization on Candidate-Related Political Activities,” dated Nov. 29, 2013.
In a fact sheet Mitchell is distributing to conservatives, Mitchell is advising clients to file comments before the deadline on Feb. 27, 2014, to a series of new regulations the IRS proposes to implement with the goal of making sure conservative organizations with 501(c)4 status are prohibited before the upcoming mid-term elections in November 2014 from any activity associated with supporting a political candidate or influencing the outcome of an election.
“Conservative groups that do not submit comments to the IRS opposing these rule changes before the Feb. 27 deadline will not have standing to participate in the final rule-determination process required by law before the rules are implemented,” Mitchell explained.
Mitchell is encouraging conservative groups and individuals to insist in their filed comments that the IRS must hold public hearings in open forums around the nation before these proposed new regulations are implemented.
IRS war against conservatives
“With these new regulations,” Mitchell argued, “the goal is to restrict the free speech of conservatives in the United States. Progressives tend to focus on process issues, and these new IRS regulations are a direct attempt by the political left to rewrite the rules of political engagement unfairly in their favor.”
Last week, the IRS scandal deepened when the Washington Times reported the Justice Department selected Barbara Kay Bosserman, a DOJ trial lawyer, who had contributed to Obama’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012 as well as to the Democratic Party, to lead the criminal probe into the IRS targeting conservative groups to deny their applications for tax-exempt status.
Mitchell in her discussions with conservative groups has explained the activities the IRS seeks to define as “candidate-related political activities,” subject to taxation and reporting to the IRS, are basic 501(c)4 activities such as grassroots lobbying, candidate forums, candidate debates, voter registration drives, voter guides and issue advocacy.
“The IRS is fully aware this is a war in which conservative groups are being targeted,” Mitchell explains, noting the proposed IRS new rules do not apply to labor unions or trade associations. “The Obama administration is not looking for ways to restrain labor unions from using member dues to conduct similar activities.”
Historically, labor union political support has gone to Democratic Party political candidates since the end of World War II, while the upsurge in tax-exempt filings have come from conservatives and especially from the many tea-party groups formed since the economic downturn dating back to 2008.