Former Federal Election Commission (FEC) Chair, Professor and RNLA Member Brad Smith has an excellent article tearing down the house of cards that is the argument for the IRS regulation of politics. Smith points out that really this effort to so involve the IRS is an end run around the bipartisan FEC and is based on three myths.
Myth No. 1: 501(c)(4)s are "charities," and doing political work abuses their charitable status. The tax code contains at least 30 different categories of nonprofits. What we think of as "charities" are typically organized under Section 501(c)(3). That section exists for "charitable" and "religious" organizations, and it is where one finds organizations such as churches, the Red Cross, the American Cancer Society and so on. Section 501(c)(4) is traditionally reserved for advocacy organizations. The National Rifle Association, the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence are 501(c)(4)s.
Myth No. 2: 501(c)(4)s must be operated "exclusively for the promotion of social welfare," not politics. While Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code specifically bars those organizations from engaging in political activity, no such statutory prohibition exists in Section 501(c)(4). Furthermore, while Section 501(c)(4) states that it applies to organizations operating exclusively for the promotion of "social welfare," the statute does not define "social welfare." Since when, in a democratic society, are nonpartisan get-out-the-vote drives, voter registration, voter education, and meet-the-candidates nights—all of which will be limited by the IRS's proposed rules—not activities in support of social welfare?. . .
Myth No. 3: Political activities shouldn't get tax breaks. There are no tax breaks for 501(c)(4) groups. Contributions to these organizations are not tax deductible, and the tax liability of the 501(c)(4)s wouldn't change if they were reclassified as political committees.
What is this really about? It is about stopping the speech of right-of-center and conservative groups, more of which now exist than the left could ever imagine when the laws were established.
What the left wants is the disclosure of private information about conservative donors. In cases involving unions, the NAACP and other civil-rights organizations in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, the Supreme Court made clear that people have a right to engage in anonymous political activity.
Can you imagine what the Democrat Party of the 1940s and 50s in the South would have done to donors to the NAACP and other civil rights groups to defend their power and Jim Crow laws? The effort to chill free speech should frighten everyone, including those on the far left.