The IRS announced on May 22 that it will substantially revise substantially its proposed Section 501(c)(4) regulations regarding politically-related activities. This retrenchment follows in the wake of great consternation expressed through more than 150,000 publicly filed comments.
The proposed regulations contain enormous defects of both constitutional and practical proportion. Most notably, and in the name of supposed clarity, they violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s mandate that, under the First Amendment, the proverbial tie goes to the speaker, not the censor. Contrary to such principle, the proposed regulations would strengthen the IRS’s role as discretionary arbiter to decide between what constitutes permissible issue advocacy (e.g., grassroots educational communications about public policy issues) and what is “too political” (e.g., advocacy for or against a political candidate). In light of our country’s robust history of protecting politically-related speech as a core democratic value, the proposed regulations are thus incredibly problematic. It thus comes as a great relief that the IRS has also canceled its hearings on the proposed regulations, which had been scheduled for this summer.
For more guidance on the IRS’s proposed regulations, see As the IRS’s Proposed 501(c)(4) Regulations Turn and IRS Take Note: The Tie Goes to the Speaker.