As the Biden administration takes shape as an even more aggressive third term for President Barack Obama, Republican senators have proposed legislation to prevent a repeat of the 2013 IRS targeting scandal.
On Thursday, 43 Republican senators led by Mike Braun of Indiana and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, proposed the “Don’t Weaponize the IRS Act” to codify a Trump-era rule passed last year aimed at stopping the IRS from targeting 501c4 tax-exempt groups based on their political ideology. The proposed law would maintain the right of select tax-exempt groups from disclosing confidential identity information of major donors on annual returns with the government.
The Democrats’ sweeping election reform rules pursued in H.R./S. 1 repeal the regulatory protection.
“We saw during the Obama years that the IRS was used as a political weapon to target conservative nonprofits,” Sen. Braun said in a statement. “Under H.R. 1 the Biden IRS would be empowered to block tax-exempt status and publicly expose a group’s donors to harassment from liberal groups and the media if their beliefs are deemed to be politically unfavorable.”
With the support of nearly half the upper chamber, the bill has drawn the endorsement of major taxpayer advocacy groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, Heritage Action for America, and the Club for Growth.
More than three dozen Senate Democrats, however, began to push Biden Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in a letter to revoke the Trump rule waiving donor disclosures with routine hysteria of foreign interference in U.S. elections.
“As secret campaign contributions continue to pour into federal elections, this IRS rule is a major step backwards for transparency and will allow dark money to continue to corrode our political system,” they wrote. “The IRS needs every tool at its disposal to ensure that these organizations are complying with the law.”
Memories of the Obama IRS scandal from less than 10 years ago remain fresh in the minds of Republicans. The agency applied undue scrutiny to conservative groups under Lois Lerner, who at the time oversaw the Exemptions Organizations unit.
“The American people remember all too well what can happen when the IRS is allowed to subject individuals to unequal scrutiny, depending on their political beliefs,” McConnell said in a statement. “The prior administration was right to intervene and put hard limits on the sort of personal information unelected bureaucrats could demand from nonprofit organizations and their donors.”