Camp Challenges IRS Rules Changes for Nonprofits

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) at a news conference on the 50th anniversary of the start of the War on Poverty on Jan. 8, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Dave Camp is still displeased with the Internal Revenue Service.

The Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee requested a pile of documents from the U.S. tax agency today as he tries to stop rules that proscribe political activity by certain nonprofit groups.

“It is clear that the Obama administration is still targeting conservative groups and wrote these rules to put them out of business,” Camp said in a statement. “This is pure politics and the new IRS commissioner should do the right thing and put a stop to it.”

House Republicans will soon get their first chance to press that new commissioner, John Koskinen. He’ll testify at a Ways and Means subcommittee hearing Feb. 5.

The rules in question define political activity for social welfare groups organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. They would include voter registration drives and political ads mentioning candidates, among other items, as political.

There’s nothing in the rules that explicitly targets Republican-leaning groups — except that the 501(c)(4) structure has become a popular vehicle for Republican donors to get involved anonymously in politics through groups such as Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies. The IRS last year said it applied improper scrutiny to Tea Party groups seeking 501(c)(4) status.

The government has asked for comments on whether the same definition should apply to labor unions, which typically favor Democrats.

The rules don’t answer the most important question: How much political activity is too much? The tax code requires that such groups be organized “exclusively” for social welfare. Current IRS rules define “exclusively” to mean that politics can’t be a group’s primary purpose.

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