Criticized by its own Inspector General earlier this year on the IRS targeting of tea party groups for special scrutiny, the Treasury Department appears to be doubling down, proposing a new rule to restrict political speech by non-profits. The Washington Post reports:
Under the proposed rule, groups such as Crossroads GPS, co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, and the Democratic-allied League of Conservation Voters would no longer be able to claim some of their routine activities as part of their work as "social welfare" organizations.
Instead, the new Treasury Department regulation would define things such as distributing voter guides, registering people to vote and running ads that mention elected officials close to Election Day as "candidate-related political activities." The rule would substantially roll back the level of political activity open to "social welfare" groups.
Unmentioned by the Washington Post is one of the biggest 501(c)4s of them all, Organizing for Action (OFA, former Obama for America), which still operates the website barackobama.com and the president's Twitter feed. OFA has been very active since the 2012 election in promoting President Obama's and the Democrats' agenda. See some of their, uh, "social welfare" work here.
Other non-profit groups have gone to bat for Obama's policies too, sometimes under the guise of being non-partisan yet specifically tailored in support of a distinctly political agenda. Capital City Project reports, for example, that Families USA, a "non-partisan" non-profit focusing on "affordable health care for all Americans" received a $1 million grant to collect pro-Obamacare stories. Capital City Project points out those stories then get picked up by media outlets who source them to an "independent" or non-partisan group, even though it's a group whose mission lines up neatly with the title of the president's signature legislation.
It's a safe bet non-profits that support the agenda of the ruling party (for now Democrats) won't be as negatively affected by the proposed rule and other attempts at government regulation as non-profits challenging those in power. The IRS' targeting of Tea Party and "patriot" groups speaks to that. Money facilitates speech, and in this country at least, the exercise of speech is free. The Treasury Department ought to be disengaging from the practice of regulating what amount to groups exercising free speech, not proposing new rules to further restrict political speech it doesn't favor.