The House approved a bill Tuesday that would bar the IRS from collecting the names of donors to tax-exempt groups, prompting warnings from campaign-finance watchdogs that it could lead to foreign interests illegally infiltrating American elections. The measure, which has the support of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also pits the Obama administration against one of the most powerful figures in Republican politics, billionaire industrialist Charles Koch. Koch’s donor network channels hundreds of millions of dollars each year into groups that largely use anonymous donations to shape policies on everything from health care to tax subsidies. Its leaders have urged the Republican-controlled Congress to clamp down on the IRS, citing free-speech concerns.
The names of donors to politically active non-profit groups aren’t public information now, but the organizations still have to disclose donor information to the IRS on annual tax returns. The bill, written by Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., would prohibit the tax agency from collecting names, addresses or any “identifying information” about donors.
Proponents say the bill is needed to stop the government and others from harassing politically active donors. “Speech is special. Speech is sacrosanct, and speech ought not to be manipulated and intimidated by people with power,” Roskam said Tuesday on the House floor.
Roskam argued the IRS can’t be trusted to protect contributors’ identities because it has “squandered and abused” taxpayer information in the past. The agency has been in the Republicans’ cross-hairs in recent years, following revelations that it targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny in the run-up to the 2012 elections.
Full Article: House approves Koch-backed bill to shield donors’ names.