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With Improvements, IRS Proposal Can Crack Down on Secret Political Spending

Hundreds of millions of dollars, funneled through nonprofit organizations, are spent on election ads. The proposed IRS rules will help ensure the nonprofit form is not abused by those who want to anonymously spend massive sums on elections.

February 28, 2014

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law submitted comments to the IRS in support of the agency’s proposed changes to rules governing the political activity of 501(c)(4) organizations.

“With (c)(4) election spending in 2012 at $256 million, it is clear that the regime Congress created is being flouted,” read the Brennan Center’s comments. “Their massive election spending flies in the face of the congressional requirement that (c)(4)s be operated exclusively for social welfare. The proposed IRS rules are needed to help ensure that the nonprofit form is not abused by those who want to anonymously spend massive sums on elections.”

The comments also outline how the IRS proposal can be improved to ensure it does not unnecessarily restrict legitimate, nonpartisan activity.

“The proposed IRS rules are a great start, but they can be strengthened,” said Kelly Williams, the Brennan Center’s corporate general counsel. “For example, the rules should apply equally to all nonprofit groups, and truly nonpartisan voter services should not be considered political activity. With these and a few other necessary modifications, the IRS plan will be a powerful improvement over the status quo.”

Read the Brennan Center’s comments here.

Read more about the Brennan Center’s Money in Politics work here.

For more information, or to set up an interview, please contact Naren Daniel at or (646)292–8381.