Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

More secretive conservative super PACS assail proposed IRS rules

As a pair of Republican-controlled House panels hold hearings this week on the Internal Revenue Service, including the agency's efforts to regulate political spending by non-profit groups, newly available documents show a broad range of right-leaning organizations weighing in to oppose the agency's proposed rules. These comments — all negative — suggest that the latest IRS effort is a continuation of the agency's decision, which made headlines and drew reprimands last year, to scrutinize Tea Party groups.

"These new IRS regulations against Conservative, Patriot, TeaParty Groups are Criminal," wrote one commenter. "Leave Us Alone!"

A new analysis based on text of available comments filed with the IRS by Sunlight's Docket Wrench tool now shows evidence that more groups — including FreedomWorks, the American Family Association and the Homeschool Legal Defense Association — have rallied their grassroots bases with alerts. Last week, Sunlight reported that Numbers USA, a group pushing for restrictive immigration policies, and True the Vote, which dedicates itself to watchdogging election fraud, were behind large groups of comments that criticize the proposals. Overall, the agency reports receiving more than 21,000 comments to date; however, the text of the vast majority of these letters became available for analysis online only in the last several days.

In this January release and video from FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group, urges its members to oppose the proposed IRS regulations: "The number of comments matters," says president Matt Kibbe. But the video does not give any suggested language, making comments difficult to track. However, Docket Wrench shows that a small group of commenters listed FreedomWorks as their organization; likely many more were inspired by the alert. FreedomWorks operates a 501(c)4 advocacy group, which is not required to reveal its donors. While their identity remains secret, we do know something about their size: In 2012, the group received nearly 60 percent of its $15 million in revenues from just four donors, according to a report by OpenSecrets. There is also the FreedomWorks super PAC, which spent $847,000; all of its independent expenditures went to Senate races, supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats. In 2012, Sunlight broke the news that two mysterious companies gave more than half of the funding — about $12 million — for the super PAC that year.