Hensarling Votes to Protect First Amendment and Prevent State-Sanctioned Harassment of Americans
Today, Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, voted for the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act (H.R. 5053). This bill protects organizations from potential ideological targeting by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by eliminating the disclosure of personal donor information that is not relevant to tax enforcement.
“Under the Obama Administration, key IRS personnel have been exposed for an inexcusable and indefensible pattern of working to silence the free speech of conservative Americans,” said Rep. Hensarling. “By passing the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, we took an important step to protect all Americans – whether liberal or conservative – from being a victim of state-sanctioned harassment due to their political beliefs.”
H.R. 5053 eliminates the Schedule B Form—part of the Form 990—that requires tax-exempt groups to report the names and addresses of anyone who contributes more than $5,000. Under current law, some organizations that are tax-exempt must report this personal information on its contributors even though this information is irrelevant to an organization’s tax-exempt status.
In the past, the IRS has improperly released Schedule B information containing personal donor information to the public, most notably when an IRS employee leaked the information of the National Organization for Marriage to the press in 2012. This information was then used by liberal activist groups to target conservative donors for public harassment. After the Attorneys General of New York and California demanded donor information for conservative groups operating in their states – which a federal judge In California has ruled was unconstitutional–the California Attorney General’s office improperly posted some 1,400 Schedule B Forms on Attorney General Kamala Harris’ public website.
“This should be a non-partisan issue,” said Hensarling. “The IRS has proven in the past it is capable of turning citizens into subjects by violating both our constitutional and civil rights. By eliminating the Schedule B Form, this important bill protects the privacy of donors, secures free speech and will help prevent Americans from being targeted for their personal religious or political beliefs.”
Since 2013, when an investigation revealed the IRS was targeting for increased scrutiny conservative groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, House Republicans have worked to rein in the IRS and eliminate its ability to specifically target organizations based on their political affiliation.
H.R. 5053 passed in the House 240 to 182.