Over two dozen grassroots organizations are officially taking a stand against the IRS’s attempts to silence the free-speech rights of nonprofits by joining the Tax Revolution Institute’s (TRI) First Amendment Alliance.
Groups such as Fight for the Future, Move to Amend, Taxpayers United of America, and Coffee Party USA have banded together to formally denounce Regulation 134417–13, otherwise known as the IRS “muzzle rule.”
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The full list of nonprofit groups that have so far joined TRI’s First Amendment Alliance represents the true nonpartisan nature of the issue at hand. The list currently includes: Coffee Party USA, People Against the NDAA, Common Ground Movement, Our America Initiative, Move to Amend, Fight for the Future, Florida Taxpayers Union, Ax the Tax, the Florida Tea Party, National Association of Parents, the Central Florida Tea Party, Popular Resistance, the Christian Party of America, Women-Matter.org, the Patriot Coalition, Idaho Freedom Foundation, Idaho Freedom Action, Christian Party of North Carolina, Taxpayers United of America, Taxpayer Education Foundation, The Prompting, The Human Solution International, Liberty Initiative Fund, Citizens In Charge, Citizens In Charge Foundation, Liberty Justice Center, Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, Liberty Guard, and Put Growth First.
In a statement released on Monday, August 29, the Coffee Party encouraged its more than 1 million social-media followers to “vigorously oppose” Regulation 134417–13, calling the rule a “clumsy attempt to close the loophole which allows dark money to influence our elections.”
The muzzle rule — initially introduced by the IRS in 2013 — aims to redefine the meaning of “electioneering” to include constitutionally protected speech, such as news reporting and issue advocacy. As TRI has previously noted, the agency’s proposed definition of electioneering is so broad that any discussion of politicians, their voting records, or even the mere mention of a political candidate’s name, is enough to have an organization stripped of its tax-exempt status.
The Coffee Party USA notes that this rule would infringe on the rights of nonprofits to engage in “education, information, and free speech.”
“The only organizations advocating public interests and citizen engagement with our government are nonprofit organizations,” the group’s statement reads. “These issue-advocacy organizations must not be silenced by this proposed regulation that will silence their advocacy and education efforts.”
Other groups within the First Amendment Alliance have also recently voiced similar concerns. “The IRS is threatening free speech,” said Jared Labell, executive director of Taxpayers United of America. “It is the the duty of all taxpayers to respond loudly and emphatically, ‘no!’”
Holmes Wilson, cofounder and co-director of Fight for the Future, also expressed the need to protect the free-speech rights of nonprofits. “When voters know where their members of Congress stand, on the issues that matter most to them, that makes democracy stronger,” he said. “Silencing the nonprofits who work to spread this information is an attack on everyone’s ability to participate in government.”
Judge James P. Gray (Ret.), honorary chair of Our America Initiative, called the IRS muzzle rule “yet another instance of bureaucracies grabbing yet more power for themselves. Like many things,” he said, “the concept may be well-meaning, but the implementation would pose dire threats to freedom of speech and assembly, and further increase the meddling of big government.”
In November 2015, Congress intervened to defund the IRS from taking action on this new rule, but those protections are set to expire on October 1 of this year. TRI has previously called on concerned citizens and organizations affected by this rule to act now by joining the First Amendment Alliance and taking the fight back to Congress.
“The Tax Revolution Institute is pleased to welcome these groups to our growing list of organizations from across the political spectrum to our First Amendment Alliance,” TRI Program Director Jason Casella said. “We look forward to working with all of our coalition partners to protect the free speech of nonprofit organizations and ensure that the American people have the ability to organize and participate in the civic process.”