On September 28, 2016, House Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA-1) and Rep. Jody B. Hice (R-GA-10) introduced H.R. 6195, “The Free Speech Fairness Act,” to chop at the root of the Johnson Amendment. For the past six decades, 501(c)(3) organizations have been muzzled from speaking out about candidate positions and incumbent voting records in the normal course of their tax-exempt activities.
Revolutionary tax reform demands we chop at the root of the problems in our tax system. Getting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) out of politics and out of the business of defining speech are top priorities at Tax Revolution Institute (TRI).
H.R. 6195 starts the conversation necessary to fix this problem once and for all in the 115th Congress in January 2017. While these issues have been festering for decades, with only bandages being applied, the conversations have begun in earnest and 2017 looks promising.
The diversity of TRI’s First Amendment Alliance (FirstAA.org) demonstrates this issue crosses party lines. Americans from all political affiliations agree that our tax collectors should not intimidate or harass taxpayers, or the nonprofit organizations they support, for any reason, least of all because of political or ideological positions which are contrary to those held by the administration, Republican or Democrat.
TRI leadership has met with Senate and House leadership on both sides of the aisle, members of the House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee, and Senate Steering Committee, along with the leadership of numerous nonprofits, all of which are putting their differences aside in historic fashion to work together for the “common good” of getting the IRS out of politics.
Protecting taxpayers from being punished for exercising their First Amendment rights must be a priority for all Americans.
While the specific language of H.R. 6195 needs work, TRI agrees with the spirit of this legislation and is pleased to be a part of the honest conversations necessary with interested parties on all sides to get the language right in the “Free Speech Fairness Act.” The proactive approach that the First Amendment Alliance has taken to get in front of this issue has put us in a great position to ensure the best possible resolution to this issue for all organizations and all Americans.
TRI does not anticipate hearings on this bill during the lame-duck session, and won’t push for it. Getting this right is more important than getting it done fast. We are optimistic that cooler heads will prevail, and encourage whoever holds the gavels in the next Congress to make defending free speech a priority. TRI will continue to build on our diverse nonpartisan First Amendment Alliance throughout the process.