The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is again being used for political purposes, attempting to suppress freedom of speech, political organization and activism, and thwarting the growth of grassroots groups that are antipathetic to the administration’s objectives. The effects of their previous targeting of conservative, especially Tea Party groups, were significant, according to researchers at Harvard University. The renewed efforts to suppress political activism by controlling and shaping the political landscape are an affront to our core values as a nation.
According to a Treasury Department (which administers and operates the IRS) posting on November 26, several new restrictions are being imposed on political organizations structured as 501(c) nonprofit entities. They include a prohibition to promulgate any information that even mentions political candidates’ names 30 days before a primary election, and 60 days before a general election.
They would also prohibit communications with an audience of over 500 people that so much as mention the name of a particular candidate within that time period. This provision would include newsletters, columns, blog entries or other publications, whether in print form, broadcast, or online.
The way the regulations are drafted, it appears that the primary goal is not only to cripple any political advocacy group, but to force them into restructuring as 527 groups that are usually issue-based, rather than candidate oriented political organizations. 527s are also non-profit, but have the discomfiting distinction of being required to disclose their donors’ names.
The net result of the proposed regulations would not only severely restrict and stifle political free speech by such groups, but provide public information to enable the systematic targeting of such individuals by an unscrupulous administration using the full force and power of the various government agencies. As we have documented before, and is now a matter of public record, the administration has used the IRS, Department of Justice, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the FBI to selectively harass individuals and organizations who are not supportive of the administration and their agenda.
Constitutional attorney and political analyst Carol Platt Liebau says of the proposed regulations, “Rather than targeting the tea parties at the back end — through ad hoc hassling, unreasonable and intrusive requests for information, and deliberate delay of approval applications — it seems that the IRS is now trying to target the tea parties from the front end, setting up regulations that would make it practically impossible for them (and them alone) to function.”
She continued, “It is unprecedented for any administration (at least in modern memory) so overtly — and shamelessly — to harass law-abiding critics from exercising the liberties the Constitution was intended to secure. And these new regs make it clear that the corruption, politicization and rot at the IRS extend far beyond the little band of officials named in the earlier tea party targeting scandal.”
House of Representatives Ways & Means Chairman, Dave Camp, agrees. “The committee has reviewed thousands of tax exempt applications. The new regulation so closely mirrors the abused tea-party group applications, it leads me to question if this new proposed regulation is simply another form of targeting.”
For those who don’t believe the administration is behind these efforts to suppress political dissent – the very freedom of speech intended to be guaranteed by the First Amendment – it cannot be mere coincidence that Obama met with IRS union boss Colleen Kelley at the White House the day before the targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS began, as learned from congressional testimony. This is a continued systematic attempt to provide discretionary support of groups the administration likes, while suppressing and defanging those it doesn’t.
Such targeting of groups not supportive of the administration’s agenda is effective in manipulating voter turnout and election results. Daniel Shoag and David Yanagizawa-Drott of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Andreas Madestam from Stockholm University, and Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute published a peer-reviewed research piece earlier this year that validates the hypothesis.
According to their research, “The data show that had the Tea Party groups continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010, and had their effect on the 2012 vote been similar to that seen in 2010, they would have brought the Republican Party as many as 5 – 8.5 million votes compared to Obama’s victory margin of 5 million.” In other words, the administration’s targeting of conservative groups may have altered the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.
The new IRS regulations constitute an additional attack on fundamental liberties of United States citizens, and represent an intentional and nefarious dilution of freedom of speech, association, and political activism by a sitting president for political purposes. If President Bush’s administration attempted to do something this sinister, the mainstream media and the nation would be up in arms. We must ask ourselves, so why not now?
Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].