The proposed rules from the Internal Revenue Service involve "501(c)(4)" groups, so named because of the relevant section of the Tax Code.
Federal law says the groups should be "social welfare" organizations, not political entities, and are not subject to restrictions on federal campaign contributions or disclosure of donors. However, many such groups have been used to support politically driven issue campaigns.
The proposed rules would make clear that activities on behalf of or against a candidate would not count toward a 501(c)(4) group's "social welfare" mission, but do not specify how much political activity a group can engage in to retain that label, the Hill newspaper reported.
The IRS has asked for public comment on how much political activity should be allowed.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.. were among the 10 Republicans asking IRS chief John Koskinen to stop the regulations released in November, as a response to the IRS's alleged targeting of Tea Party groups, the Hill reported.
Koskinen has refused, saying the rules were still open to public comment until the end of February.
Republicans say the proposed regulations would merely codify the targeting of Tea Party groups that sought tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status. In a Thursday letter to Koskinen, the Republicans called the rules "an affront to free speech."
"The timing of this rule appears calculated to take effect just in time for the mid-term elections, giving the strong appearance of political motivation," the Republican lawmakers said.
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