WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, today submitted comments to the IRS regarding recently proposed rules that would stifle the free speech of 501(c)(4) political organizations and suggested alternative action that would prevent the agency from entangling itself in politically sensitive judgments and picking political winners and losers.
“It is disturbing that the IRS is proposing new rules that would attempt to further limit the free speech rights of Americans, while the IRS and the Department of Justice still refuse to provide the American people with all the facts surrounding the IRS’s targeting of certain organizations based on their political activity,” Sen. Cruz writes. “The IRS should not be used as a tool for partisan warfare. And the federal government must respect the First Amendment rights of our citizens. The proposed new rules do neither.”
Sen. Cruz suggests in his letter that instead of creating a new set of definitions for political activity, the IRS should use the definitions long established by the bipartisan Federal Election Commission (FEC) that provide clear guidance for speakers without stifling political speech.
He specifically proposes that the IRS adopt a definition of “political organization” that includes only those groups that must register as a political committee with the FEC or equivalent state agency to limit IRS’s discretion in determining what groups count as political organizations.
Additionally, the agency should adopt an interpretation of “promotion of social welfare” that takes into consideration independent expenditures and other political activities like voter education. While direct contributions are coordinated with political candidates, independent expenditures are not. 501(c)(4) groups should be allowed to make independent expenditures and engage in news stories, voter education and nonpartisan get-out-the-vote drives – activities that further our democracy by engaging citizens without a direct coordinated benefit to specific candidates.