The silence of dissent

This actually came to my attention a couple weeks ago, but I thought they may get more response if I wanted until closer to the deadline to post this.

As background, the Maryland Citizen Action Network filed for 501(c)(4) status back in November of last year, and they’re still waiting. They then ask:

Will you let our voice be silenced by our now openly oppressive government?

The regulations that the IRS would like to impose upon MDCAN include prohibitions against sponsoring candidate debate, having to scrub candidate names from their online presence, and eliminating get-out-the-vote efforts within 60 days of a general election. On the other hand, as they point out:

Unions will be exempt.

The entire reason why MDCAN filed to become a 501(c)(4) – to create online petitions to fight bad bills, to teach our activists how to be better activists, to learn how to fight effectively – will be for nothing.

Will you let our voice be silenced?

IRS REG-134417-13 is the ticket to stifling opposition to the current regime. The IRS got caught being completely overboard when they tried to slow-walk applications and determine who to audit before, but this time they’re going to write the regulations before strangling potential opposition in the crib.

We are closing in on the deadline for public comment, which comes February 27. The group Protect c4 Free Speech has taken a lead on organizing opposition, and they’ve posted a copy of the proposed regulations. They remind me a little bit of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions which were properly thrown out with the Citizens United decision, except this seems a blatant violation of the First Amendment. What the IRS and Obama administration are probably counting on is time enough to chill opposition during the 2014 election cycle – they’ll worry about paving the way for Hillary Clinton in 2016 later.

In looking at the method of submitting comments, it’s worth noting that one can comment anonymously, which may not be a bad thing given the tendency of the IRS to find multiple excuses to audit those who express dissent. But comment we should, otherwise there will be a chilling effect on organizations trying to promote a pro-liberty viewpoint. Remember, unions are exempt.

Now I know some will argue that if an organization wants to preserve its rights, it simply can choose not to apply for 501(c)(4) status. But there are hundreds which have based on the interpretation of the rules in place, and the bulk of spending was by conservative groups. One advantage of 501(c)(4) status seems to be donor anonymity. And MDCAN is important to the Maryland pro-liberty movement based solely on their annual Turning the Tides Conference, a chance for right-of-center Maryland activists to gather and learn from each other. Obviously the group wants to adopt more of a role in Maryland politics and feels it needs the 501(c)(4) status for its growth.

Given the lawlessness of this regime I don’t really think the IRS will be a fair arbiter of status anyway, but these proposed rules really attempt to tilt the playing field. Let’s take them down.

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