“Obama Administration Proposes New Curbs on Campaigning by Tax-Exempt Groups”

Huge news in WSJ:

The Obama administration Tuesday proposed a crackdown on the widespread use of tax-exempt organizations for political campaigning, seeking to reduce the influential role that the secretive groups have played in recent elections.

The new “guidance” issued Tuesday by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service would curtail a broad array of these tax-exempt entities’ activities, including campaign advertising, voter registration, get-out-the-vote efforts, and distribution of voter guides and campaign materials.

Here is the government statement. The guidance should appear today in the Federal Register, and open for notice and comment.

This is a long time coming. Whether one likes 501(c)(4) involvement in campaigns or not, lack of clarity is a problem both for groups which can face harassment or the public which is ill served by the failure to enforce existing law as written.

The ideal solution here is for Congress to take away the benefits of shadow super PACs from forming as 501(c)(4)s, by requiring the same disclosure of funding of election-related advertising regardless of the organizational form the group takes.  (My thoughts on that point here.)  But Congress is not going to act on this any time soon, and so this is a good second-best solution.

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