For over 226 years the United States Constitution has served as the law of the land, preserving the rights and liberties that have made our nation the beacon of freedom it is today. These rights must be jealously guarded and not impeded by the federal government.
In May 2013, we learned that the Internal Revenue Service had been singling out certain conservative groups for further review as they applied for tax-exempt status. Conservative groups across the nation, including in the Sixth District, were impacted by this targeting, resulting in lengthy paperwork requirements, prying questions, and delays in their applications.
The IRS is required to remain non-partisan in the enforcement of America's tax laws. Targeting groups based on political leanings, whether they are conservative or liberal, is inappropriate and a violation of the constitutional right of freedom of speech. When this first came to light, I was very concerned that the agency's actions may have been an attempt to intimidate organizations that disagree politically with the Administration. Now, a new set of rules directed toward these very same organizations only exacerbates these concerns.
Around Thanksgiving, the Department of Treasury and the IRS released proposed regulations that would restrict the activities of 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations. The new regulations would prohibit participation in activities like voter registration, candidate forums, and get out the vote initiatives. Participating in these activities would jeopardize an organization's future tax-exempt status. However, labor unions and other tax-exempt organizations would not be required to abide by the same rules.
These proposed regulations are unfair and continue to target certain groups. Since the proposal, I have heard from several groups concerned about what it means for them. Many are concerned that these regulations would severely limit the activities of their organizations and keep them from exercising their right to free speech.
In order to block these regulations from implementation, Rep. Dave Camp, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced H.R. 3865, the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act. This legislation, which I have cosponsored, would prohibit the Department of the Treasury and the IRS from finalizing the proposed 501(c)(4) regulations for one year. This would allow for the continuation of the IRS investigation and ensure that input from the public comment process is thoroughly reviewed.
Targeting by the IRS of certain groups has done very little to instill trust and faith in the federal government. The President himself has said that these actions are "inexcusable." However, these proposed regulations only continue the pattern of targeting that treads on the First Amendment rights of Americans. I urge the House to take up H.R. 3865 to block these misguided regulations, allowing the House to continue our oversight of the IRS.
Congress has more questions for the Administration and the investigation into this abuse of power will continue until the IRS is held fully accountable for their actions. The American people deserve to know the facts.