Groundhog Day? IRS Renews Targeting of Libertarian, Conservative Groups Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Wednesday, December 11 2013
The same IRS that was humiliated earlier this year for selectively targeting libertarian and conservative groups is actually redoubling its effort.

Apparently, the Obama Administration either lacks any sense of irony whatsoever, or it simply maintains no interest in propriety or any appearance thereof. 

The latest occasion for that observation comes from a new partisan stunt originating out of Obama’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

That’s not a misprint – the same IRS that was humiliated earlier this year for selectively targeting libertarian and conservative groups is actually redoubling its effort.  In recent days, the IRS unveiled new proposed regulations targeting libertarian and conservative nonprofit organizations.  The nation still hasn’t been allowed to get to the bottom of the existing scandal, yet here we are facing another IRS campaign with the same goal in mind. 

Specifically, the proposed regulations would suddenly prohibit any broadcast advertisement that even mentions a candidate for office within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election, regardless of whether the ad actually advocates the election or defeat of that candidate.  So, for example, groups ranging from the Sierra Club to the National Rifle Association couldn’t even publicize an important issue that happens to involve an elected official running for reelection, or urge concerned citizens to contact those elected officials to express support or opposition on the issue, under penalty of law.  Under such a regime, guess when elected officials would suddenly begin introducing and voting on important legislation?  That’s right – as primary or general elections approach, so as to make themselves immune from public criticism by affected groups. 

The IRS’s proposed rules would also prohibit communications with an audience of over 500 people that so much as mention the name of a particular candidate during the critical time period.  That would include not only newsletters, but also columns, blog entries or other publications, whether in print form or online.  Accordingly, nonprofit groups would suddenly be required to search and scrub their entire archives of any reference to any person in any federal, state or local jurisdiction who happened to be running in a primary or general election. 

Imagine the sheer amount of prosecutorial discretion that proposed rule would suddenly grant Obama’s IRS against citizen groups it disliked. 

Ultimately, the IRS proposal would even forbid targeted groups from conducting nonpartisan voter registration, educating voters or even such things as maintaining elected officials’ voting records in print or on their websites.  The real goal of the Obama Administration and their apologists, however, is to use the proposed rules to force disclosure of donors, by driving targeted nonprofit groups to reorganize as 527 groups that are required to report donors under existing IRS regulations. 

So why would that matter?  Because it would expose private citizens to the type of public harassment and demonization for which the political left is famous.  Private individuals’ names, home addresses and other personal information would be publicly accessible to vindictive groups and people who viciously disagree with their viewpoints. 

That, in turn, would directly abridge Americans’ freedom to express their viewpoints, whether collectively or individually, as enshrined in the First Amendment.  As summarized by the United States Supreme Court in NAACP v. Alabama (1958), when the state attempted to force disclosure of the NAACP’s membership lists in order to subject them to public harassment, “Immunity from state scrutiny of petitioner’s membership lists is here so related to the right of petitioner’s members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in doing so as to” invoke First Amendment free speech protection. 

Without donor privacy, which helps protect citizens who exercise their free speech rights against unnecessary retaliation and even illegal activity by extremists, political participation by private citizens would be significantly reduced.  To cite just one example from recent years, in 2004 a group identified as a terrorist organization by the FBI posted the names and home addresses of private citizens who merely worked for an employer that had conducted business with another company the terrorist organization opposed.  Their names were ominously listed under the menacing headline “Now You Know Where to Find Them.” 

Accordingly, this latest IRS shenanigan constitutes a transparent effort to demonize and silence organizations whose political viewpoints happen to be inconvenient for the Obama Administration. 

It’s bad enough that the Administration refuses to accept fundamental free speech principles of the First Amendment.  But it’s even worse that they’ve shamelessly chosen the IRS as their vehicle for such extra-Constitutional schemes.