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Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman from Louisiana.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act.
Political speech was considered by our Founders to be deserving of the utmost protection. The First Amendment they wrote is no less crucial to our democracy today than it was in those initial days. Since those days, Americans have come up with all sorts of ways to exercise their fundamental free speech rights, including assembling together in organizations to express their thoughts about what their government is doing.
These groups, including those known as 501(c)(4) organizations, are an important part of our democracy. Many of these groups are formed to specifically engage and educate our citizenry through candidate forums,
debates, grassroots lobbying, voter registration, and other activities to promote the common good so America has an informed public.
For over 50 years, these organizations have been eligible to apply for tax-exempt status, but now, Mr. Speaker, that status is under threat from new regulations being proposed by the IRS. The goal here is clear. These regulations were reverse engineered in order to directly silence political opponents of this administration's.
That is the worst kind of government abuse. Silencing your critics is commonplace in authoritarian countries, not in the United States of America. Frankly, it is a cowardly act to silence people via backroom regulations. Those who disagree with any administration's policies, whether conservative or liberal, still deserve the constitutional protections afforded to them. This kind of government abuse must stop, and it must stop now.
Today, we have an opportunity to act in a bipartisan manner because this bill prevents these costly regulations from taking effect on groups that promote issues both sides of the aisle deeply care about. Nearly 70,000 comments have been submitted about this proposed regulation from both sides or all sides of the ideological spectrum. The majority of those submissions are negative.
Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union submitted a 26-page comment to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, stating:
Social welfare organizations praise or criticize candidates for public office on the issues, and they should be able to do so freely, without fear of losing or being denied tax-exempt status, even if doing so could influence a citizen's vote.
The ACLU continued, stating that the advocacy work done by these groups is ``the heart of our representative democracy.''
The ACLU and so many others who have also spoken out in opposition to this proposed regulation are absolutely right. Political speech represents the best part of America, the ability for Americans to be able to reach out to their elected representatives and let them know when they agree or disagree with them.
No matter which side of the aisle we are on, Mr. Speaker, we must protect that fundamental freedom. So let us stand together today and pass this bill so that Americans, whether individually or collectively, can continue to strengthen our political process without fear of retribution.
I would like to thank Chairman Camp as well as subcommittee Chairman Boustany on the Ways and Means Committee and all of those across our country who have spoken out on this issue, and I ask my colleagues to support this bill.
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