Alexander Cosponsors Legislation to Delay IRS Regulations That Target Political Speech

Posted on February 11, 2014

Says IRS has failed to show “how it will protect the rights of the American people to speak up and speak out”

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“The IRS violated the First Amendment rights of the American people when it created what amounted to an enemies list of conservatives, including Tennessee Tea Party groups, to keep people quiet. … The American people need their trust restored – not more federal overreach.” – Lamar Alexander 

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced that he was a lead cosponsor of legislation introduced today by Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that would delay for one year proposed regulations by the Internal Revenue Service that Alexander said fail to “protect the First Amendment rights of the American people.” 

“The IRS violated the First Amendment rights of the American people when it created what amounted to an enemies list of conservatives, including Tennessee Tea Party groups, to keep people quiet,” Alexander said. “Now, instead of showing how it will protect the First Amendment rights of the American people to speak up and speak out, the IRS is proposing new regulations that are so broad they could limit free speech. The American people need their trust restored – not more federal overreach.” (For audio of the senator's remarks, click here: 2-14-14 IRS Statement.mp3 )

The Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act would delay 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. Alexander also plans to join a letter pressing the IRS to reconsider its proposed regulations.

On Sept. 10, 2013, Alexander introduced the IRS Abuse Protection Act in the U.S. Senate that would require the federal government to notify taxpayers whenever the IRS has accessed their tax returns or other tax information. U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Alexander said then, “This legislation will give taxpayers the protection they need to make sure the IRS isn’t using their information in a way that violates their First Amendment rights to speak up and speak out, for political reasons or otherwise.”

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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