Join the First Amendment Alliance

The IRS Nonprofit Muzzle Rule would harm the First Amendment in every aspect: freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of petitioning. It is an all-out attack on civil society in America, diminishing our freedom of speech to protect politicians and the IRS.

Join the coalition and demand a prohibition on the IRS Nonprofit Muzzle Rule!

Article the third… Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the Press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.

 

I’m in.

CONGRESSIONAL PROTECTIONS EXPIRE IN:

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We Must Stop the IRS From Silencing Nonprofit Organizations

 

 

Shortly before Thanksgiving in 2013, as the American public left for the holiday, the IRS quietly issued a proposed rule to “clarify” the definition of political activity for not-for-profit social welfare organizations (501c4s). This “clarification” would have left many organizations unable to function, as it would have effectively prohibited them from mentioning the voting records and names of many public officials. After receiving over 175,000 comments, mostly in opposition, the IRS withdrew the rule. Shortly afterward, instead of taking the initiative to protect free speech, Congress kicked the can down the road, prohibiting the funding of any such new rule until December 9th of this year.

On June 8th, 2016, 43 members of Congress urged the House Appropriations Committee to remove even those modest protections, and allow the IRS to fund the nonprofit muzzling rule. And as revealed in an interview with Politico, not only is IRS Commissioner John Koskinen still pursuing the rule, but he now wants to expand it to include all nonprofits; labor unions, business associations, educational institutions, and even charities.

The rules claim to be an attempt to “clarify” what makes an activity “political” and therefore cannot be counted toward a nonprofit organization’s purpose. They could include:

  • posting a candidate’s voting record
  • voter registration
  • get-out-the-vote efforts
  • voter guides
  • candidate questionnaires
  • discussing issues “related” to candidates
  • Having the name of a candidate on a non-profit’s website, even if it was posted before they were a candidate

If enacted, these rules would censor many nonprofit organizations, reduce civic engagement, and open the door to crippling red tape for even the most non-political organizations.

If Congress does not act by December 9th, the impact these IRS rules could have on nonprofits of all types could be devastating. The Tax Revolution Institute’s First Amendment Alliance will raise awareness about the full impact of these rules and organize action to prevent their implementation.

So What Can You Do?

 

You can learn more about the proposed rule, and the First Amendment Alliance’s suggested action to stop it, at the resources section below. If you are a 501(c)4 or other grassroots organization, join our coalition letter to urge Congress to take action to protect free speech. If you are a 501(c)3 organization, you can join the coalition to oppose the IRS rule at the bottom of the page.

First Amendment Alliance

Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Inc

Ax the Tax

Bastiat Society

Benjamin Rush Institute

Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation

Blue Republican

Central Florida Tea Party

Christian Party of America

Christian Party of North Carolina

Citizens In Charge

Citizens In Charge Foundation

Coalition for Policy Reform

Coffee Party USA

Common Ground Movement

Community Steeple Media LLC

Eagle Forum of CA

Eight is Enough Orlando

Fight for the Future

FLActivist

Florida Tax Payers Union

Florida Tea Party

Free the People

Fully Informed Jury Association of Florida

Granite Institute

HerRights.org

Idaho Freedom Action

Idaho Freedom Foundation

Idaho Second Amendment Alliance

Ikkthus

Legal Immigrants for America

Liberate Ohio

Libertarian Institute

Libertarian Party of Broward County

Libertarian Party of Jefferson Parish

Libertarian Party of Louisiana

Liberty Guard

Liberty Initiative Fund

Liberty Justice Center

Love Knowledge

Move to Amend

Mr. Ed’s Circle of Trust Inc

Muslims For Liberty

National Association of Parents

National Organization of Libertarian Women

New Jersey Libertarian Party

North American Food & Farm Inc

Our America Initiative

Parents Teachers and Advocates

Peachtree NORML

Pennsylvania Commercial Action Network

People Against the NDAA

Popular Resistance

Prairie Fire Patriots

Put Growth First

Republican Liberty Caucus

Restore the Fourth

Rio Grande Foundation

RIPAC

Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies of Florida

SoCal Tax Revolt Coalition Inc

Susquehanna Valley Libertarian Party

Tampa Historical Society

Taxpayer Education Foundation

Taxpayers United of America

Tea Party Nation

The FREEDOM! Fund

The Human Solution

ThePeoplesVote.com

The Prompting

The TaxPayers’ Alliance

We Resist

Young Americans for Liberty (YAL)

2nd Vote

 

 

 

Click Here to Read the First Amendment Alliance Letter to Congress
Alliance Letter to Congress

We, the undersigned organizations, call upon Congress to introduce, debate, and pass legislation that codifies the definition of “candidate-related political activity” to mean only express electioneering as was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo 424 U.S. 1, 15 (1976) .

The IRS is pursuing a rule that would put non-profit organizations at risk of losing their tax-exempt status, and severely limit issue discussion and advocacy, by redefining electioneering to include any mention of any candidate for office anywhere in the United States, and any content that could be inferred to support a candidate, within 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election. The rule would also sweep in any reference to an “issue or characteristic” used to distinguish a candidate from other candidates.

Congress and the Courts, not the IRS, Department of Treasury, or Executive Branch, have the authority to define the boundary between electioneering and free speech protected by the First Amendment. Congress has established specific rules for non-profit organizations, defining the limits of issue discussion and advocacy for various types of organizations. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that while electioneering is subject to regulation, issue discussion and advocacy are clearly protected by the First Amendment.

The public has the right to engage in discussion of public policy, to hear competing sides of an issue, and to know the factual record of their elected representatives, including those seeking reelection. This is a compelling social welfare interest that is most important during election season when the public is paying the closest attention.

The IRS has no constitutional authority to overrule or undermine Congress and the Supreme Court and impose arbitrary new restrictions on speech that unduly harm the public interest.

The current prohibition against the implementation of this “muzzling rule” (REG-134417-13) by the IRS expires on December 9, 2016.  As a temporary solution, we call upon Congress to continue prohibiting the IRS from spending tax dollars to silence free speech.  A permanent solution will require Congress to work with TRI and the First Amendment Alliance to protect free speech from abuses by the IRS and reaffirm the Supreme Court’s definition of electioneering as “express advocacy”  consistent with the language found in Tax Revolution Institute’s Free Speech Protection Act (FSPA).

Signed,

First Amendment Alliance Members

PDF Version

Full Text of Proposed Rule

IRS Regulation 134417-13

What People Are Saying

“Alliance For Justice strongly believes that the proposal […] to redefine the meaning of “social welfare” activity so as to exclude certain nonpartisan election-related activity goes beyond the statutory authority provided by Congress and will deter a wide-array of legitimate activity which has long-been recognized as promoting the general welfare of the community.”

Alliance for Justice
Comment on Proposed Rule

 

“This untenable proposal proves the obvious: the IRS has neither the expertise nor the authority to regulate political speech. The proposed rules are absurdly and needlessly broad, trampling on speech that has never been regulated before and that is at the heart of the First Amendment.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Comment on Proposed Rule

 

“The breadth of the proposed definition of CRPA could therefore significantly impair the ability of the ACLU’s § 501(c)(3) entity, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Inc. (“ACLU Foundation, Inc.”), to engage in public communications and advocacy, despite only an insubstantial part of its activities being federal or state lobbying, and its complete avoidance of any partisan political activity.”

American Civil Liberties Union
Comment on Proposed Rule

 

“This rule would cut the knees off of citizen activism in America, and is so overbroad it would place an unnecessary burden on the legitimate activities of nonprofit organizations. The red tape to find out where every candidate in America was running, and make sure to never mention their names on their website, would be a serious burden for even the most well-equipped nonprofits.”

Dan Johnson
Executive Director, Tax Revolution Institute

 

Help Us Defend Free Speech!

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Resources

“[The IRS Nonprofit Muzzle Rule] shouldn’t just be for [social welfare organizations]. We need to make sure that as Congress has legislated in all of these areas, there’s a consistent and appropriate framework for [charities, schools, churches, social welfare organizations, labor unions, chambers of commerce, and political action committees].”

-IRS Commissioner John Koskinen
Politico Interview, March 19th 2015

So How, Exactly, Could This Affect Nonprofits?

Example 1
A government transparency nonprofit, the Sunshine Project, has been releasing the voting records of politicians for years. They make sure every vote is searchable, and make it easy for citizens to find out where their representative stands on the issues, especially before election day. Because they didn’t remove the names of every candidate running for office from their website at least 60 days before election day, their nonprofit is shut down by the IRS. 
Example 2
The Neighborhood Kids is a 501(c)3 charity that helps kids find and build parks and playgrounds in their neighborhood. They give Paul, one of their amazing volunteers, an award for his dedication to the neighborhood, and put it on their website. Two years later, Paul runs for office. Because the Neighborhood Kids didn’t remove him from their website before he ran for office, the IRS revokes their nonprofit status.
Example 3
John runs a nonprofit called Rap the Vote. His organization is dedicated to getting low-income residents in his city to register to vote. He holds cool events with hip-hop artists and musicians, and organizes a voter registration drive just before an local election. He loses his charity because he tried to register voters within two months of a general election. 

Latest Updates

Get More Information, and Join the Coalition

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