Roberts, Flake introduce bill to stop IRS targeting of non-profits

U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) stood together on Wednesday to reintroduce the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act.

The legislation would bring a screeching halt to the Internal Revenue Service’s practice of enforcing regulations restricting the free-speech rights of social welfare organizations that may not agree politically with the Obama administration.

There are 33 additional co-sponsors for the bill, including Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Cornyn (R-TX), John McCain (R-AZ), John Barrasso (R-WY), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

“While the president is proposing more taxes on family farms and middle class Americans, the Obama administration’s tax collectors at the IRS remain mired in scandals,” Roberts explained. “As a result, our legislation is very simple – we halt further action on the IRS’ proposed targeting regulations until the Justice Department and congressional investigations into the IRS’ previous targeting are complete. We cannot allow the IRS to regulate constitutionally guaranteed free speech.”

In short, the language of the bill prohibits the IRS from enforcing regulations that would inhibit the programs of non-profit organizations further than what was in place on Jan. 1, 2010.

The legislation’s backers said the IRS has targeted certain conservative agencies under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, enforcing regulations to keep them from running their programs since 2010. An example is a regulation recently created that would have limited some groups from participating in civic voter registration drives and distribution of voter guides.

“I’d put the IRS’ ability to preserve free speech on par with its ability to preserve emails,” Flake said. “This bill would not only prevent this administration’s IRS from targeting nonprofits, it would protect those groups’ First Amendment right of free speech, regardless of ideology.”

Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) have presented the same legislation in the House.

“Americans should never feel silenced or threatened by their own government,” Roskam said. “And yet the IRS regulations targeting tax-exempt organizations would clamp down on political engagement, impeding even non-partisan efforts like voter registration drives and candidate forums. This legislation will stop IRS abuse and protect the American people’s fundamental right to speak out on the issues they care about.”