Public Citizen’s Spin

Sometimes you just have to give props to the anti-speech activist community for managing to find a silver lining when they are clearly on the wrong side of history.

Public Citizen, part of the conglomerate of groups that publically claimed that the IRS wasn’t doing enough to tamp down on 501(c)(4) organizations, managed to find that silver lining in an analysis of comments on the IRS rulemaking that showed “67 percent of the organizational comments favored going ahead with rulemaking.”  According to the release:

“The response to this rulemaking has been overwhelming,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and manager of the Bright Lines Project. “The vast majority of commenting organizations realize that this rulemaking is an opportunity to fix a system that’s been broken for decades.”

Added Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, “These numbers are enlightening – and contradict the early erroneous news stories that reported widespread opposition to the rulemaking. Though commenting organizations recognize the problems with the proposed rules, they are widely supportive of continuing the process to ensure that better rules are enacted.”

The release continues:

“The Bright Lines Project has been working for years to create clear, fair rules that would apply to all nonprofits and would encourage nonpartisan civic engagement while removing opportunities for abuse,” Gilbert said. “We agree with the nearly 70 percent of commenting organizations that the rulemaking must continue and that the IRS must enact these important reforms.”

So…what?  The fact alone that people and organizations collectively submitted over 140,000 comments, smashing the previous record for comments on an IRS NPRM, is a clear indication that the status quo is unacceptable and that the IRS needs to hash out problems with the current system.

But while most of us agree that something must be done to reform the current system, the real news lies in the fact that the overwhelming majority of comments opposed the proposed rule at the heart of this rulemaking.  In fact, CCP reviewed every hundredth comment and found that 94.37% of the comments were against the IRS’ proposal.

When 94.37% of the comments are against the rule, it really isn’t wrong to report that there is widespread opposition to the rulemaking.  More to the point, the main thrust of Public Citizen’s comments is that the proposed rule did not go far enough in limiting political speech by only focusing on 501(c)(4) activity, a far cry from the NRA’s comment, which point out that  “The only way for the Service to navigate successfully between the constitutional doctrines of overbreadth and vagueness is to write rules that are (1) clear and (2) minimally restrictive of constitutionally protected rights.”

News outlets often misrepresent campaign finance issues, but in this case, it’s clear that the real agreement is that the few steps the agency has already taken to remedy the problem have been in the wrong direction.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.