By Ryan Ellis
The U.S. House of Representatives today will consider H.R. 5053, the “Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act.” It is an absolutely essential check on IRS politicization and targeting of conservative non-profits.
H.R. 5053 would prevent the IRS from collecting the names of donors to non-profit organizations. Under current law, 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) non-profits are required to furnish this information to the IRS on Schedule B of their annual Form 990 reporting statement. The IRS does not make Schedule B available to the public, and has even indicated that they no longer see the value of collecting it.
Nevertheless, this information is floating around at the IRS. As we learned from the Lois Lerner affair, employees at the IRS do not always feel bound by the rules and ethics expected of them by the service. It’s only a matter of time until some unscrupulous employee is going to leak one of these “Schedule B” forms (it’s already happened “inadvertently” with the National Organization for Marriage and the Republican Governors Association). A leak will almost certainly be a donor list from a conservative non-profit, if recent past is prologue.
Why should donors to conservative groups be able to give confidentially? I spent over a dozen years working at a management level at Americans for Tax Reform, and have been in the conservative non-profit world both before and since my tenure there. What I found was donor after donor absolutely terrified that if anyone found out they gave to a conservative group, they would face boycotts, violence, or worse. Being able to give confidentially was a key element of trust the donor needed in order to fund the mission of the group he agreed with.
Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but it is. If you give to the Left, you get kudos from the selectively tolerant at faculty cocktail parties. Give to the Right and you might find your business put under or a rock thrown through your window. Until that changes, being able to give anonymously to conservative non-profits is a necessity.
The conservative world seems to agree.
Americans for Tax Reform, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Prosperity, the R Street Institute, Freedom Works, and some 80 other conservative non-profits have endorsed H.R. 5053.
These groups know that their donors would be the target of militant and violent activism ranging from Big Labor to Big Green to Big LGBT. These leftist outfits would not stop until these groups are chased out of the public square, and they would do it by targeting donors unrelentingly. The Left knows this, which is why they oppose H.R. 5053.
House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said it best: “As we have seen over the last several years, the IRS has exploited sensitive taxpayer information to penalize tax-exempt organizations that do not align with certain political beliefs. By eliminating invasive reporting requirements in current law, this legislation will protect taxpayers’ identities and prevent the IRS from improperly targeting particular organizations.”
For the sake of free speech and a robust public square, the House should pass H.R. 5053 today.