Congressman sues over IRS rules
WASHINGTON — A Democratic congressman filed suit against the Internal Revenue Service on Wednesday, seeking to overturn a 54-year-old rule that allows social welfare groups to engage in political activity.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., seeks to force the IRS to draft new rules requiring that the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups comply with the section of the Internal Revenue Code for which they're named. That section requires such groups to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”
“The law is clear. What do you want us to do, put an exclamation point after exclusively?” Van Hollen said.
But since 1959, the IRS has followed a rule that allowed 501(c)(4) groups to engage in political activity, as long as it wasn't their primary mission. That rule has been widely interpreted as allowing such tax-exempt groups to spend 49 percent of their money on politics — without disclosing where that money came from.
After the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case paved the way for unlimited corporate and union spending to elect or defeat political candidates, political spending from 501(c)(4) groups has tripled, from $83 million in 2008 to $256 million in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, comes amid a growing debate about how the IRS oversees tax-exempt groups involved in political activity. In May, the agency admitted that it had wrongly held up applications from Tea Party groups beginning in 2010.
Van Hollen isn't happy with how the Obama administration has responded to the Tea Party affair. The lawsuit seeks to overturn a new “safe harbor” provision enacted by acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. That provision allows groups whose activities are less than 40 percent political to have their tax-exempt applications fast-tracked, but Van Hollen argues that provision is arbitrary.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Risk of government shutdown to worry Congress on return from July Fourth
- Austin police kill gunman in slaying in hotel lobby
- Fires at black churches stir worst fears amid relative calm
- Measles carries risk of deadly complication for young
- Police: Maine man shoots firework from top of his head, dies
- Pentagon leery of Russia’s ‘hybrid warfare’
- Obama’s planned trip to Ethiopia riles some emigres
- Believers at S.C. church acknowledge pain, anger challenge their tenets
- Notorious New York escapee Sweat returns to prison