In a surprise move that could significantly impact the power of big money in politics, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that the IRS will move to limit political spending by tax-exempt nonprofits.
As a result of the 2010 Citizens United Decision, current law allows billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson to spend colossal amounts of money on political activity. Much of this is made possible because the non-profits they create to spend billions of dollars are legally identified as “social welfare” organizations.
The proposed rules would also ban tax-exempt non-profits from engaging in funding advertisements “that mention a candidate within 60 days of an election” and making grants to other organizations that spend money on candidates.
Calling this announcement “the biggest change in 20, 30 years,” New York Times correspondent Nicholas Confessore outlined 3 significant implications of these rules on “The Rachel Maddow Show” Tuesday night.
The proposed changes would cause groups to:
- Limit their own political spending.
- Register with the FCC as a Super PAC. Because Super PACs are required to disclose donors, the IRS rules could discourage individuals from making contributions that would clearly connect their identities and interests to a candidate, while giving them fewer options for secretly funneling campaign contributions. Unfortunately, however, Super PACS are still allowed to accept an unlimited amount of contributions. Still, the new rules would chip away at one entity of power utilized by some of the biggest spenders, and consolidating this power within Super PACs could narrow the target for future efforts to limit their power.
- Hide their money through a corporation that would then engage in political spending.
The U.S. Treasury and IRS will take public comments on the issue, and final proposed rules are not expected to be released for a year or two. Confessore also identified the possibility of a challenge in the courts to the new rules.
Edited by SS / DH.