Last week, Campaign for Liberty President John Tate submitted comments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) opposing the proposed rule that would prohibit Campaign for Liberty from informing Americans where their elected officials stood on important issues sixty day before an election. The IRS received 143,730 comments on this rule, and the vast majority of the comments opposed the gag rule. You can read Mr. Tate's comments here and below and you can support Campaign for Liberty's efforts to block this rule here.
Official comments by Campaign for Liberty President John Tate
Agency: Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Parent Agency: Department of the Treasury (TREAS)On behalf of nearly three quarters of a million members of Campaign for Liberty, I request that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) withdraw the proposed “Guidance for Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Organizations on Candidate-Related Political Activities (REG-134417-13).” This proposed regulation violates the First Amendment rights of our members and supporters to actively participate in the public policy process.The proposed “Guidance” threatens 501(c) (4) “social welfare organizations,” such as Campaign for Liberty, with loss of their tax-exempt status if they send a “communication” to their members or the general public mentioning a candidate for office sixty days before an election. This would prohibit Campaign for Liberty from communicating information to our members regarding the voting records of their elected officials at the very time the public is most interested in receiving such information, and more importantly at the one time politicians are most likely to listen to the views of their constituents. The rules would also prohibit us from mobilizing Americans to let their representative and senators know their position on important pieces of legislation. The proposed rules would even prohibit Campaign for Liberty’s state and local affiliates from hosting non-partisan candidate forums where members of the public could discuss their concerns with the candidates.
Many Americans simply do not have time to keep up on Congress’ activities, so they join groups such as Campaign for Liberty that work to advance the issues they care about. By informing our members of developments at the federal, state, and local levels of government and encouraging them to contact their representatives to let them know their views on the legislative issues of importance to them, we enhance our members’ ability to directly affect the legislative process. I am at a loss as to how the American people benefit from an IRS rule making it more difficult for American citizens to affect and understand public policy.
Protecting the ability of Americans to receive information about their elected officials and to mobilize and influence their elected representatives to support or oppose certain issues is one of the main purposes of the First Amendment. Campaign for Liberty has chosen to operate as a 501(c)(4) because doing so is the most effective way to pursue our mission. The 501(c)(4) designation is available for groups that work to promote “social welfare.” We and other groups promote social welfare by working to involve Americans in the public policy process to achieve certain legislative goals. For the IRS to threaten this status because we exercise our First Amendment rights to name active candidates in our communications, and because we ask our members to contact these candidates directly on important legislative issues, is to discriminate against us because of the content of our communications. This type of content discrimination violates the First Amendment.
The proposed IRS rule restricting the ability of 501(c)(4) organizations to communicate to their members and the general public information about candidates’ positions on important issues, as well as to mobilize their members to voice their concerns on specific legislation, violates the First Amendment and makes it more difficult for ordinary Americans to impact the policy process. Therefore I once again urge the IRS to reject the proposed “Guidance for Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Organizations on Candidate-Related Political Activities (REG-134417-13).