Congress Needs to Clamp Down on IRS Targeting of Free Speech

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016, 8:00 AM PERMALINK

Under the Obama Presidency, the IRS has targeted non-profit organizations in order to limit free speech time and time again.

This has taken several forms, including the agency subjecting donors of non-profits to the gift tax in what was a blatant intimidation attempt. In the most notable example of targeting, Lois Lerner and countless IRS employees under her direction discriminated against conservative non-profit organizations based solely on their beliefs. Because of this coordinated effort, just one conservative non-profit was granted tax exempt status over a three year period between 2009 and 2012.

But despite multiple Congressional investigations into this targeting, little has changed, as a recent report by the Government Accountability Office found. As the report noted, serious internal control flaws mean the IRS may still be unfairly selecting Americans for an audit “based on an organization’s religious, educational, political, or other views.”

Clearly, there is more that needs to be done.

This week, the House Ways and Means Committee will take another step addressing IRS overreach when it considers several pieces of legislation including the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, introduced by Congressman Peter Roskam (R-Ill.)

Rep. Roskam’s legislation prevents the IRS from targeting non-profits by prohibiting the agency from collecting the identity of donors who contribute to these organizations. Bizarrely, the IRS requires non-profits to provide this information but does not use it for any purpose. Given the increasing politicization of the agency, it is likely a matter of time before the IRS decides to use this information to target organizations it does not agree with.

This issue should not be partisan in any way and should be supported by all Members of Congress. Doing nothing in the face of the Obama IRS targeting organizations based on political affiliation opens the door to future administrations doing the same regardless of whether they are Democrat or Republican.

It is well established that the Obama IRS has worked to curtail political speech. Now, Congress must make clear that this targeting is unacceptable and implement reforms to ensure First Amendment rights are protected and the IRS is held in check.

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