Last week, reports began circulating that President Barack Obama was readying a new series of regulatory recommendations that, if approved, would essentially equip the Internal Revenue Service with sufficient power to choke conservative grass-roots organizations out of effectiveness in time for the 2014 midterm elections.
The new rules, of course, would apply equally to nonprofits of all ideological persuasions — in theory. But thanks to the specific areas of operation the Obama Administration seeks to empower the IRS to scrutinize, it’s clear they were tailor-made to hobble conservatives. On top of that, the Obama Administration has set a precedent for picking and choosing which fish it wants to shoot out of the partisan barrel.
There’s no better phrasing to explain that well-established fact than that delivered by Tea Party Patriots member Ernest Istook, whose column in The Washington Times last week condemned Obama even as it lamented how little is likely to change:
The power to tax is the power to destroy. Its new powers will let the IRS destroy certain groups, especially those connected to the Tea Party, by imposing a tax on their work and messages during campaign seasons.
[T]he Obama Administration is notorious for selective enforcement, meaning it could choose to give a pass to friendly groups while it puts conservatives out of business. They could use this in efforts to shut down groups like the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the National Rifle Association, while ignoring People for the American Way, American Civil Liberties Union, USAction and the Democratic Leadership Council.
The new rules would institute a litany of new no-nos to cover both 501(c)(4) nonprofits and, if the Administration wishes to strictly enforce the rules, 501(c)(3)s as well.
But how do the new changes manage to target conservatives if, technically, they apply generally to nonprofits of every stripe? Because the proposal specifically exempts the left’s grass-roots bread and butter: labor unions and trade groups.
Here’s a sampling of what conservative groups — now a year removed from the same IRS scandal that was supposed to put a stop to further discrimination — will face in 2014 (H/T: Matt Barber for WND):
In an explosive  scandal that continues to grow, the Obama IRS was caught — smoking gun in hand — intentionally targeting conservative and Christian organizations and individuals for harassment, intimidation and, ultimately, for political destruction.
…Not only has Obama faced zero accountability for these arguably impeachable offenses, he has since doubled down. With jaw-dropping gall, his administration has now moved to officially weaponize the IRS against conservatives once and for all.
…Specifically, here’s what the proposed regulations would do to conservative groups and their leaders:
- Prohibit using words like “oppose,” “vote,” “support,” “defeat,” and “reject.”
- Prohibit mentioning, on its website or on any communication (email, letter, etc.) that would reach 500 people or more, the name of a candidate for office, 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election.
- Prohibit mentioning the name of a political party, 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election, if that party has a candidate running for office.
- Prohibit voter registration drives or conducting a non-partisan “get-out-the-vote drive.”
- Prohibit creating or distributing voter guides outlining how incumbents voted on particular bills.
- Prohibit hosting candidates for office at any event, including debates and charitable fundraisers, 30 days before a primary election or 60 days before the general election, if the candidate is part of the event’s program.
- Restrict employees of such organizations from volunteering for campaigns.
- Prohibit distributing any materials prepared on behalf a candidate for office.
- Restrict the ability of officers and leaders of such organizations to publicly speak about incumbents, legislation, and/or voting records.
- Restrict the ability of officers and leaders of such organizations to make public statements regarding the nomination of judges.
- Create a 90-day blackout period, on an election year, that restricts the speech of 501(c)(4) organizations.
- Declare political activity as contrary to the promotion of social welfare.
- Protect labor unions and trade associations by exempting them from the proposed regulations.
These regulations are timed to coincide with the onset of election season. And a new set of discriminatory rules isn’t the only enforcement tactic the IRS is ready to deploy. The New York Times reported Wednesday on Friends of Abe, a conservative group composed of mostly anonymous Hollywood types, that’s found itself in the agency’s crosshairs after applying for tax-exempt status under the existing guidelines:
Last week, federal tax authorities presented the group with a 10-point request for detailed information about its meetings with politicians like Paul D. Ryan, Thaddeus McCotter and Herman Cain, among other matters, according to people briefed on the inquiry.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the organization’s confidentiality strictures, and to avoid complicating discussions with the I.R.S.
…Friends of Abe — the name refers to Abraham Lincoln — has strongly discouraged the naming of its members. That policy even prohibits the use of cameras at group events, to avoid the unwilling identification of all but a few associates — the actors Gary Sinise, Jon Voight and Kelsey Grammer, or the writer-producer Lionel Chetwynd, for instance — who have spoken openly about their conservative political views.
Tellingly, the IRS has been after the group for two years. Even in the wake of last year’s scandal (which a very friendly Department of Justice is supposedly investigating), the IRS remains emboldened in targeting conservatives under the very rules it has admitted it selectively applied.
Remember that bit earlier about the Obama Administration picking and choosing whether to target 501(c)(3)s based on the political benefits? That’s exactly what’s happening with Friends of Abe.
“[U]nlike most of [last year’s targeted] groups, which had sought I.R.S. approval for a mix of election campaigning and nonpartisan issue advocacy, Friends of Abe is seeking a far more restrictive tax status, known as 501(c)(3), that would let donors claim a tax deduction, but strictly prohibits any form of partisan activity,” The Times reported.
So the Tea Party’s concern isn’t merely academic.
You can file a public comment on the proposals until Feb. 27, and you can sign a petition sponsored by Liberty Counsel Action (another targeted conservative group) imploring the Senate Committee on Finance: Taxation and IRS Oversight “to ensure all 501(c)(4) organizations formed to promote conservative values will be treated fairly by the IRS.”