The new IRS rule is a one-two punch to the speech rights of non-profit organizations: First, it restricts us from engaging in legitimate policy advocacy by gagging us from even referencing a politician, let alone talking about voting records, during election season. And then, it defines “candidate,” “communication,” and “election” so broadly that it threatens groups with the legal risk of inadvertently crossing the new boundary by unknowingly mentioning an individual running for (or “proposed for”) office. Congress should act immediately to protect the right of private associations to engage in political speech, by defining “political activity” to mean only express advocacy and electioneering. Grassroots organizations will need to press lawmakers to protect their freedom of speech. The principal beneficiaries of the proposed quashing of political speech would be incumbent politicians who prefer that their voting records are not exposed to public scrutiny. A critical mass of directed effort will be needed to protect our First Amendment rights. Read our analysis of the IRS’ bid to silence free speech, and make sure all political groups you know are informing their members that their freedom is at risk. But time is running out; Congressional protections for nonprofits expire October 1, 2016.
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