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Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Over 140,000 Comments From Citizens To IRS, ‘Leave. The First Amendment. Alone’

Using IRS To Limit Conservative Free Speech
by AF "Tony" Branco
Today in Washington, D.C. - Feb. 28, 2014:
The Senate is not in session today and will reconvene on Monday, when senators will vote on cloture (to cut off debate) on the nomination of Debo P. Adegbile to be Assistant Attorney General.

Yesterday, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filled the amendment tree to prevent any Republican amendments to the veterans bill (S. 1982), including bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation, Democrats voted with their leader to continue blocking any amendments to the bill.  One of those Democrats was Arkansas' Mark Pryor who continued to vote both times  in support of Sen. Harry Reid who called Americans liars who are reporting about problems with Obamacare.

Democrats then failed to get the 60 votes required to waive a budget point of order against the bill and the bill stalled.

Later, the Senate voted 97-0 to confirm Michael Connor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior.

Last night, Reid filed for cloture on 4 district judge nominees, an undersecretary of State nominee, and on the motion to proceed to S. 1086, a child development block grant bill.

The House reconvened at 9 AM.  They debated and passed H.R. 899 (234-176) — "To provide for additional safeguards with respect to imposing Federal mandates, and for other purposes." The House adjourned at 1:31 PM. The House is scheduled to reconvene at 12:00 PM on Monday, March 3, 2014

Yesterday the House passed:
H.R. 2804 (236-179) — "To amend title 5, United States Code, to require the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to publish information about rules on the Internet, and for other purposes."
H.R. 3193 (232-182) — "To amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 to strengthen the review authority of the Financial Stability Oversight Council of regulations issued by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, and for other purposes."

The Washington Post reports, “A controversial proposed IRS regulation that seeks to define political activity for nonprofit social welfare organizations drew more than 122,000 comments before Thursday night’s deadline, a gargantuan sum that underscores difficult task now facing the Treasury Department. The proposed rule . . . has been roundly criticized by groups across the political spectrum as overbroad, unworkable and a threat to free speech. . . . The breadth of the opposition was exemplified by a bipartisan comment submitted Thursday by an unusual coalition that included immigration reform advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Citizen, Citizens United and FreedomWorks. Among other things, the groups objected to the department’s proposal to categorize nonpartisan voter registration and candidate forums as political activities.”

Roll Call adds, “Comments poured into Treasury steadily through the final hours of a Feb. 27 deadline from activists on the left and right; tax and legal experts; academics; advocacy and trade groups of all stripes, and from thousands of ordinary citizens and taxpayers. . . . [M]ost were overwhelmingly critical, attacking the IRS for proposing to define political activity to include voter registration and mobilization, distribution of voter guides and candidate appearances. . . . A broad coalition of progressives, including civil liberties and environmental organizers, have joined conservative activists in assailing the proposed IRS rules as over-broad and chilling to free speech. Left-leaning activists have in essence told the Treasury Department, ‘thanks, but no thanks’ for the IRS rules.”

Just a glance at the names, left and right, joining together to criticize this rule should give a sense of just how bad it is. Among those on the left commenting are Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice, the ACLU, the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters. On the right are groups including the NRA, Americans for Prosperity, and Americans for Tax Reform.

The Wall Street Journal editors also note the breadth of the pile on: “This week the IRS was the place to be in Washington, but not because it was suddenly popular. Thursday was tax agency's deadline for comment on its proposal to clip the free speech rights of 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups, and much of America was screaming its disapproval. By the time the comment period closed, the rule had generated more than 100,000 individual responses from across the political spectrum, more than 10 times as many as the regulatory runner-up. Notable among the comments is one filed by eight former FEC commissioners, including Journal contributors Bradley Smith and Hans von Spakovsky, who note that the rule would usurp the campaign-finance regulation created by Congress and handled by the Federal Election Commission. . . . A group of First Amendment scholars, including Floyd Abrams, Nadine Strossen and Harvey Silverglate, weighed in to say that key parts of the regulations are ‘in tension with . . . settled constitutional principles’ and ‘impose serious burdens on free speech.’”

And in her WSJ column, Kimberly Strassel writes, “[N]ow we have new IRS regulations, which will formalize the crackdown on 501(c)(4) political speech. The IRS has no business here—there is a bipartisan Federal Election Commission to enforce laws about political speech. But the FEC can't be controlled by the White House, and Democrats have been unable to pass new speech restrictions through Congress. Democrats are instead fully vested now in using the IRS to shut down criticism by outside groups of ObamaCare, overspending or (ironically) the IRS targeting.”

Indeed, Roll Call notes that among the comparatively few comments supporting the IRS rule are those from, of course, a group of Democrat senators, and the former head of House Democrats’ campaign committee. “By contrast, more than a dozen Senate Democrats, led by Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse, urged the IRS to ‘make clear that it is impermissible for political operatives to create what are for all practical purposes PACs, obtain 501(c)(4) status for those PACs, and then spend essentially unlimited money to influence elections without disclosing their donors, as is now common practice.’ Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a leading advocate of campaign finance disclosure, also joined with the watchdog groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center in comments urging the IRS to rewrite its rules.”

Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday on the reaction against the proposed IRS rule, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Today’s an important day. It’s the last day of the so-called comment period when Americans can officially register their opinions on the IRS’ latest effort to suppress free speech. So far, nearly 100,000 comments have come through. Nearly every one I’ve seen is opposed. Just to put things in perspective, that’s basically the largest number of comments ever for a rule like this. Even the head of the IRS said he saw more comments on this proposal than ever before ‘on any regulation.’ And that was about 70,000 comments ago. So people are making their voices heard. Loudly. And the message they’re broadcasting is pretty clear. Leave. The First Amendment. Alone. Get out of the censorship and harassment business. Stick to the job you’re actually supposed to be doing. And let’s be clear. The folks who are logging opinions like these run straight across the political spectrum. Labor unions are upset. Business organizations are upset. Civil liberties activists are upset. Taxpayer groups are upset. Grassroots groups right across the political map are upset at what they view as an assault on their First Amendment rights. All you have to do is read their own words.”

He concluded, “Left, Right, or Center — folks understand what a threat this rule poses to our most cherished of civil liberties. They also realize that a group the Administration favors today could easily become a group the IRS targets tomorrow. That’s why this fight is so important – why it’s so inappropriate to hand this kind of power to any Administration. I don’t care what party the president’s in. And that’s why I, along with several of my colleagues, recently sent a letter to the new Commissioner of the IRS explaining in some detail just why the agency’s proposal was such a bad idea.

“In that letter, we also reminded Commissioner Koskinen of something else too: the ball’s in his court on this one. He could stop this rule tomorrow. And given the comments he made about restoring integrity to the IRS when the Senate voted to confirm him, that’s just what we expect out of him. In fact, that’s the essentially mandate on which he was confirmed. So here’s the choice before him. He can either fulfill that mandate to the American people by restoring integrity to an agency they no longer trust. He can be a hero and say no to those who are pressuring him to crack down on the First Amendment rights of ordinary Americans – just like the IRS Commissioner who stood up to Nixon. Or, he can serve political masters over in the White House. He can implement regulations that will erode our most fundamental civil liberties – regulations that would almost certainly lead to the harassment of conservative groups today, and quite possibly to the harassment of Left-leaning groups in the future. In fact, a recent letter Representative Camp received from the Treasury Department appears to suggest that unions in particular may have a lot to fear from this proposal.

“So now is the time to act. America’s free speech advocates are standing up with one voice.”

Tags: IRS, citizen comments. free speech, Senate, House, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 2:07 PM - Post Link

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