by Chad Groening and Jody Brown
WASHINGTON D.C. – It’s apparent that conservative grassroots activists have compelled the IRS to put off implementing regulations proposed by the Obama administration some say were intended to silence conservative and tea party groups leading up to the November elections.
Speaking Wednesday at the National Press Club, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen discussed controversial recommendations dealing with 501(c)(4) groups and the extent to which they could engage in political activity without endangering their tax-exempt status. Some criticized the new regs as clearly a pre-election season attempt by the White House to silence the president’s political opponents while leaving his friends virtually untouched.
Koskinen, however, said a record-breaking number of public comments on the proposed regulations got the attention of the Internal Revenue Service:
“During the comment period, which ended in February, we received more than 150,000 comments. That’s a record for an IRS rulemaking comment period. In fact, if you take all the comments on all Treasury and IRS draft proposals over the last seven years and double that number, you come close to the number of comments we are now beginning to review and analyze.
“It’s going to take us a while to sort through all those comments, hold a public hearing, possibly re-propose a draft regulation and get more public comments. This means that it is unlikely we will be able to complete this process before the end of the year.”
The American Family Association says its network of supporters generated well over ten percent of the total number of comments received by the IRS.
“The overwhelming response from freedom-loving Americans means one thing: they recognize that the proposed IRS regulations are utterly contrary to the First Amendment and completely out of phase with American values,” says AFA president Tim Wildmon.
“The Founders believed in robust and uncensored public debate over public policy, but the Obama administration apparently does not,” he continues. “These regulations should not be ‘re-proposed’ – they should be sent immediately to the nearest landfill and never seen again. The role of the IRS is to collect revenue for the federal government, not suppress political expression.”
Sandy Rios, AFA’s director of governmental affairs, says opponents of the proposed regs counted on the IRS following its own rules. “There’s a regulation that they have to respond to all 150,000 comments; that was actually our strategy,” she explains. “We thought if we could overwhelm them with comments [we could prevail].”
According to Rios, public comment was the last option to halting the new regulations.
“That was the only way that we could stop this,” says the longtime conservative spokeswoman. “We tried very hard [to go through] other avenues: we tried to go through Republican leadership in the House and in the Senate – and without going into details about it, they failed us on this. So this was our only way really to fight back – and thank God, we prevailed.”