Vote Explanation for H.R. 5053 — Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, we have seen an unprecedented rise in the amount of undisclosed money being spent by wealthy individuals, corporations, and other entities in our elections. Citizens United has allowed Super PACs and other tax-exempt groups to anonymously funnel millions of dollars in support of, or in opposition to, political candidates.

H.R. 5053, the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, would only exacerbate this problem by eliminating, except in limited circumstances, the current requirement that tax-exempt 501(c) “social welfare” groups make non-public disclosure of their substantial donors to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Given that these organizations are permitted to engage in political activity, this legislation would decrease transparency and strengthen the ability of special interests to influence our elections. America’s Founding Fathers would never want foreign entities to influence our political system. By prohibiting the IRS from holding or accessing the information of donors to politically active groups, the bill opens the door for foreign governments, individuals, and entities to engage in political activity, and no one would know.

It is no surprise that Republicans in Congress are pushing this partisan bill forward when the three largest spenders on political activities among 501(c)(4) groups from 2012 — representing 51 percent of the total — include Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS (that spent $71 million); the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity (that spent $36 million); and the Koch Brothers’ American Future Fund (that spent $25 million). Alarmingly, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, political spending by tax-exempt groups is estimated to be five times the amount spent at this point during the 2012 election cycle.

We need more transparency and accountability in our elections, not less. That is why I strongly opposed this legislation.