• December 2, 2022

FREE SPEECH VICTORY? IRS backs off plan under fire from conservatives

The IRS has agreed to overhaul a controversial proposal that Republican lawmakers warned would revive the agency’s “harassment and intimidation” of conservative groups, after receiving a record number of comments on the proposed regulation.

The new rules have been in the works ever since the IRS came under fire for its targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups. In the wake of that scandal, the agency said it wanted to clarify for everybody how tax-exempt groups can engage in political activity — by reining in the political work those groups do.

But Republicans, as well as some on the left, worried the new rules would only exacerbate the kind of targeting that stonewalled Tea Party groups in the first place.

For months, they’ve urged the IRS to scrap the proposal entirely, saying it would stifle free speech.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, among those senators, called Thursday’s decision a “long overdue step in the right direction.”

“The IRS is right to abandon its previously proposed rules governing 501c4 organizations that threatened free speech and the rights of all American citizens to participate in the democratic process,” he said in a statement.

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the proposal was “wrong from the start” and intended to “silence” conservative nonprofits.

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