Tea party groups are rallying their troops for a fight over the new rules the IRS is carving out on how to regulate tax-exempt groups that participate in political activities.
ABC reported that tea party groups were caught off guard when the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service rolled out the proposed rule changes before the Thanksgiving break and now they are calling on members of the grassroots movement to weigh in on the proposed changes before the end of a 90-day comment period.
“They seem hell bent to do whatever they’re setting out to do because of the way they issued the rules and the fact that the comment period happens during the holiday season,” Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, told ABC.
“I think changing the rules in an election year is extraordinarily unfair and unprecedented,” he said.
ABC reported that more than 10,000 people have responded to the call to arm by submitting their comments, which would be looked at by the IRS as it considers the new regulations.
ABC reported that on Monday ForAmerica also launched a separate effort to block the rule changes. The group reportedly has put more than $100,000 behind the effort.
The Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, the IRS watchdog, rocked Washington in May when it released an audit that said the IRS was giving special scrutiny to conservative groups that had “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names and that had applied for tax-exempt status.
The audit said that some of the applications were held up for years and sparked a series of hearings on Capitol Hill.
The proposed rule changes could curb the influence of tea party groups heading into the coming elections by changing the way “social welfare” groups — otherwise known as 501 (c) (4) groups — are governed.
The new rules would prevent them from participating in certain kinds of political activity. For instance, it would block communications within 60 days of a general election that identifies a candidate or party.
While tea party groups say the rules will hurt small groups, others say they are necessary.
“The truth of the matter is that the current rules are a morass, and many nonprofits are using that to their advantage,” Ken Gross, an election lawyer and former associate general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, told ABC.
“Anything that would add clarity that would make the laws more enforceable I think ends up being something that the groups oppose because they have used the current morass of laws to their benefit,” he said.