By Luke Wachob
Citizens and organizations alike noted that the proposed rule would shut down a number of common, non-partisan functions that non-profits perform to promote social welfare. For example, the rule would reclassify voter registration drives, get-out-the-vote drives, meet-the-candidate forums, grassroots lobbying of elected officials and candidates, and the production of nonpartisan voter guides as “candidate-related political activity.” Once placed under that label, those activities would become subject to limits on political activity.
Organizing voter registration drives, grassroots lobbying, and hosting candidate debates are a far cry from partisan campaigning. By reclassifying what counts as political activity, the rule would underhandedly force 501(c)(4) groups to abandon or cut back a tremendous amount of their operations under the guise of providing “clarity” in the (c)(4) application process.
The IRS’s proposed solution to its abusive targeting of conservative 501(c)(4) groups is simply to formalize that mistreatment by stifling the activities of all (c)(4) organizations. As House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) observed, “The new regulation so closely mirrors the abused tea-party group applications, it leads me to question if this new proposed regulation is simply another form of targeting.”