Alexander: “American People Have Successfully Pushed Back” Against IRS Attacks on Free Speech

Says IRS decision to revise proposed rules shows “finally the IRS has paused to listen” after receiving more than 150,000 public comments on political targeting and free speech

Posted on May 23, 2014

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“In 2012, the IRS violated the First Amendment rights of Americans when it created what amounted to an enemies list of conservatives – including Tennessee Tea Party groups – to keep people quiet, but it hasn’t worked.” – Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON,  May 23 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on the Internal Revenue Service’s decision to revise proposed rules that he said “were so broad they would have limited free speech.” The IRS made its decision following more than 150,000 comments from Americans and members of Congress “the most comments ever received” by the U.S. Treasury and the IRS.

“The American people have successfully pushed back against the IRS’s attempts to keep them from speaking up and speaking out, and they’ve done that in the best way possible – by speaking up and speaking out.  In 2012, the IRS violated the First Amendment rights of Americans when it created what amounted to an enemies list of conservatives – including Tennessee Tea Party groups – to keep people quiet, but it hasn’t worked.”

Alexander continued, “When the IRS proposed new regulations that were so broad they would have threatened free speech, Americans used their First Amendment rights to put a stop to it, flooding the federal government with their concerns. The American people and their elected officials have spoken, and now that the IRS has paused to listen we must make sure any future action will protect free speech.”

The senator previously announced two pieces of legislation to stop the IRS from limiting the First Amendment rights of Americans. The IRS Abuse Protection Act, cosponsored by Alexander in the Senate and U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) in the U.S. House of Representatives, would require the federal government to notify taxpayers when the IRS accesses their tax information.

The Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act – which was introduced by Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) with Alexander as a lead cosponsor – would have delayed for one year IRS rulemaking to define “candidate-related political activity” of tax-exempt “social welfare organizations.” It would also require the IRS to follow standards and regulations that were in effect prior to the agency’s targeting of conservative groups during the 2012 election.

In addition to cosponsoring legislation, Alexander joined a letter pressing the IRS to reconsider its proposed regulations. On Thursday, the IRS announced that it would revise those proposed regulations, citing more than 150,000 public comments, “the most comments ever received by [the U.S.] Treasury and IRS on a proposed regulation.”

Alexander previously joined a letter by 45 U.S. senators calling on the Obama administration to comply with all requests by Congress as it examines the IRS’s admitted targeting of conservative groups and others during the 2012 election. This followed his March 2012 request to the IRS for assurances that its inquiries when considering the tax status of groups were consistent across the political spectrum.

Alexander first said in October 2009 that the Obama administration’s behavior resembled the Nixon administration’s creation of an “enemies list," which became public as part of the Watergate scandal. He cited Obama administration statements treating businesses, the media and members of Congress like enemies, saying Obama should “push the street brawling out of the White House.”

 

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