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A huge grassroots organization is urging its constituents and others to tell the Internal Revenue Service to stop formalizing the "persecution" of conservative groups.
As WND reported, Mathew Staver, founder and chief counsel of Liberty Counsel, has raised concern about new rules proposed in the Federal Register that would silence and restrict the activities of his 501 (c) 4 nonprofit organization, Liberty Counsel Action, and others during this election year.
Staver said that after "being caught intentionally targeting conservative groups in the prior two elections, now the president wants his IRS to totally silence the voices of his political adversaries."
Now FreedomWorks, a grassroots service center for a community of more than 6 million activists, has set up an Internet link for Americans to comment to the IRS.
FreedomWorks said the rules changes proposed by the IRS "would restrict the political activities allowed by tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations."
"The proposed changes would expand the already unchecked discretionary power of the IRS, and institutionalize the agency's targeted harassment of conservative and libertarian nonprofits in recent years," the organization said.
FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said: "They're going after conservative groups, they're going after libertarian groups, and they're going after citizen groups that want to organize people based on the values of the Constitution; based on the ideas of freedom and have an impact on the political conversation."
Kibbe said the federal government "is formalizing the same persecution, the same targeting that we saw coming out of the IRS leading up to the 2012 election."
"We need to do something about this. The time frame is very short; they are trying to jam this through the process. If we don’t make our voices heard, they are going to get away with it," he said.
His group set up a procedure at the IRSTarget.com site that allows constituents to submit comments, either above their signature or anonymously.
The targeting of conservative groups by the IRS with harassment that included invasive probes into the content of prayers and unwarranted delays is being addressed in court.
But Kibbe said rules changes were announced very quietly in November that would formalize the behavior that prompted outrage by the public.
Staver told WND in an interview the proposed regulations pose a "serious threat to freedom of speech."
"This literally silences people of faith and those who have the right to be able to express themselves in the marketplace of political ideas," he said. "This proposed regulation not only will silence 501 (c) 4 [groups], which are designed so that they can engage in social and issue advocacy speech, it also silences people who are associated with [the groups]."
IRS definitions are supposed to allow 501 (c) 4 groups to engage in political speech that is not allowed for the charitable group designation under which many churches operate, 501 (c) 3.
But Staver said the new regulations restrict speech and impose "blackout" periods in which no statements are allowed at all on issues such as radical and leftist judicial nominees and policies.
"This underscores, I think, the fact that when the IRS under the Obama administration was targeting organizations of a conservative [view], it wasn't by accident. They were intentionally trying to shut down political debate in the 2012 election."
He said the proposal proves the Obama administration still is trying to silence anyone who doesn't agree with the president's far-left political agenda.
In a statement to supporters, Staver explained that the IRS, the "most feared of all federal agencies," wants a regulation that would restrict organizations like Liberty Counsel Action, which "call out" politicians and their policies.
"We would be restricted in promoting conservative values, such as protecting our constitutional rights against the executive branch's infringements," he said.
His group would even be prohibited from criticizing the federal bureaucracy, he said.
The rules would prohibit using words such as "oppose," "vote," "support," "defeat" and "reject," he said.
The IRS also wants a ban on voter registration drives or nonpartisan "get-out-the-vote" drives and on voter guides outlining how incumbents voted on particular bills, he said.
The rules also apply to officers or leaders when they speak about candidates or legislation. It would limit them in making any statements on those issues or the nomination of judges, he said.
"Further, any member of the Liberty Counsel Action team will be banned from speaking or messaging on incumbents, legislation, and/or voting records – or to speak on the nominations of judges or political nominees being considered by the Senate. This also includes state and local politicians," Liberty Counsel explained. "What's more, the new set of regulations exempts prominent liberal lobbying groups like labor unions!"
"This is just the beginning of 'selective enforcement,'" Staver's action organization said. "Most of the exempted organizations are liberal and in the back pocket of the Democrat party – and vice-versa. Most key players in the liberal 'progressive' bloc will not be silenced or restricted by these new regulations."
The organization said the new rules are " clear evidence that President Obama intends to silence the voices of his political adversaries using elements of the federal government."
WND reported on the IRS targeting of conservative and Christian organizations. The IRS apparently deliberately delayed their requests for tax-exempt status to curb their effectiveness in the 2012 election.
One IRS official pleaded the Fifth Amendment and declined to respond to questions from Congress. But others in the agency have admitted to cases cited by conservative groups. One group was told, for example, it had to reveal the content of members' prayers or make promises about what they would or would not say.
The discrimination, which started before the 2012 presidential election, limited the effectiveness of nearly 500 activist organizations as Barack Obama and his liberal agenda rolled to victory.
Now lawsuits are pending that allege the Obama administration violated the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act in addition to various rules and regulations.
A suit asks that the court issue a declaratory judgment that the IRS "unlawfully delayed and obstructed the organizations' applications" for tax status determinations. It alleges the actions were based on unconstitutional standards and "impermissibly disparate treatment." Further, the legal claim asks for an injunction to protect the groups and their officers and directors from further IRS abuse.
Among the claims is one by the American Center for Law and Justice, which filed its case against the government in May on behalf of dozens of conservative organizations that had their applications delayed or denied because of their beliefs.
ACLJ claims the evidence shows there was a "politically motivated attack on conservative organizations by the IRS – a secret and illegal targeting campaign – aimed at the organizations because of their political beliefs."
Jay Sekulow, ACLJ chief counsel, said "the intimidation campaign conducted by the IRS is much more politically motivated and coordinated than previously thought."
The lawsuit is believed to be the largest of its kind against the IRS, representing 41 different organizations that claim biased treatment.
"We now know that President Obama through his public comments initiated actions that resulted in the unlawful targeting of our clients – a self-induced unconstitutional act," Sekulow said. "In addition to the president's remarks, congressional Democrats along with the media created a climate of hostility – making it impossible for our clients to exercise their First Amendment freedoms."