COCHRAN & WICKER: SUSPEND IRS RULE TARGETING CONSERVATIVE GROUPS

Senators Cosponsor “Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act” to Protect Free Speech

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss) are continuing their efforts to stop the Internal Revenue Service from effectively curbing free speech by targeting groups based on their political leanings.

The Mississippi Senators are original cosponsors of the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act (S.2011), which was introduced Tuesday. The legislation was written to confront the threat of the IRS issuing a final regulation that would limit the activities of 501(c)(4) organizations.

“The administration has taken an unacceptably halfhearted approach to investigating IRS actions targeting groups that champion conservative views,” Cochran said. “This bill would help by preventing the IRS from taking actions that inhibit free speech rights and from further damaging its reputation with the American people.”

“Regulations that hinder the constitutional right to free speech are not the way to restore Americans’ trust in the ability of the IRS to do its job,” Wicker said. “This bill would put a stop to additional rulemaking regarding political activity and protect all groups, particularly conservative nonprofit organizations, from being targeted unfairly.”

The legislation would prevent the IRS from targeting conservative 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations by imposing a one-year suspension of any IRS rulemaking related to 501(c)(4)s, including the new candidate-related political activity definition rolled out by the Treasury Department in November. That regulation would infringe on the free speech rights of these groups. The bill would also require the IRS to revert back to the IRS standards and definitions that were in place on Jan. 1, 2010 – a date prior to the agency’s inappropriate targeting.

Companion legislation (HR.3865) has been introduced in the House and is cosponsored by Representatives Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) and Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.).

Related to the IRS scandal, Wicker and Cochran last year cosponsored the Taxpayer Nondiscrimination and Protection Act (S.941), which would amend the federal tax code by increasing the penalty for misuse of IRS enforcement tools. It would prohibit IRS employees from investigating individuals based on factors related to political or social views. Violators would be subject to fines and imprisonment for up to five years.

LINKS:
• Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act background: http://1.usa.gov/1bMokJl
• Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act legislation: http://1.usa.gov/1eQ4l2k

US Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker Press Release
2/12/14