In the past, conservative groups had to disclose sensitive information to the bureaucratic and often biased organization that is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Fox News reports that thanks to a recent policy change, that is no longer the case.
The Trump administration is lifting requirements that some tax-exempt groups disclose the identities of their donors to federal tax authorities. The change benefits groups that spend millions of dollars on political ads, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an organization tied to the billionaire Koch brothers.
This major announcement will bring a needed change of privacy to an organization that has historically discriminated against conservatives and right-leaning organizations.
Under the new guidance, social-welfare groups and other tax-exempt organizations, besides charitable and political organizations, will no longer have to provide the IRS with the names and addresses of donors. The groups will still have to keep donor information in their own records and make it available for the IRS when the agency needs the information in audits of taxpayers.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised the change on the Senate floor yesterday:
Last night, the Internal Revenue Service made an important announcement. It’s particularly welcome news to those of us who are intently focused on defending the First Amendment, for those of us who raised concerns during the last administration about activist regulators punishing free speech and free association. And it’s a straightforward, commonsense policy decision. . . .
It raises the question: If the IRS isn’t permitted to do anything with this set of Americans’ private information, why collect it in the first place? Unfortunately, we know exactly what happens when the government stockpiles private data about the donations through which Americans participate in the public discourse. We know exactly why many on the left are keen for bureaucrats to have this confidential information. Where it leads, is Americans being bullied – bullied -- for exercising their First Amendment rights. . . .
So I welcome this announcement, and applaud the leadership of Secretary Mnuchin and Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. I’m glad that this step will make the right of Americans to freely advocate for their strongly-held beliefs less vulnerable to the malice of some in government, and to the proven failures of bureaucracies. And I urge continued vigilance for all of us who cherish our First Amendment.
Conservative groups have long been calling for a policy proposal like this one to take place, even coming together to write a letter to President Trump. The New York Times reports,
Americans for Prosperity and other 501(c)(4) organizations in the Koch brothers’ network of advocacy groups were among dozens of such nonprofit groups to sign onto a letter sent in May to Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnuchin declaring a policy change “an issue of utmost importance.” The letter accused the I.R.S. of “targeting of nonprofit organizations on the basis of ideology.”
Officials with the Treasury Department largely echoed that reasoning, explaining that the move was driven in part by the I.R.S.’s inappropriate targeting of political groups during the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The RNLA welcomes this new policy change as private organizations should never face government discrimination for their political beliefs. This proposal serves as one more safeguard against potential abuse.