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Hickenlooper Urges IRS to Help Get Money Out of Politics

May 13, 2022

Letter to Senate Appropriations Committee urges colleagues to refrain from blocking IRS action on ‘dark money’

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper this week joined 18 of his colleagues in calling on the Senate Appropriations Committee to end years of appropriations riders that block the IRS from setting clear rules for 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups that spend money to influence our politics without disclosing donors.

“Since Citizens United, a flood of dark money has entered our political system,” wrote Hickenlooper and the lawmakers. “We urge you to refrain from including policy riders that would impede the IRS’s ability to proceed with necessary and appropriate rules governing political activity.”

In recent years, legislators have attached riders, provisions coupled to bills, to must-pass funding measures in an effort to continue allowing dark money to infiltrate our American political system. The letter specifically calls to not include riders that prevent the IRS from revising or issuing new rules governing the political spending of 501(c)(4) organizations in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill. 

“Social welfare” groups are exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, and the law requires them to operate exclusively “for the promotion of social welfare.” However, these groups routinely spend large sums on political attack ads, or transfer funds to organizations that can spend money on political influence campaigns. This contributes to the enormous uptick in dark-money spending inundating American politics. Since 2010, 501(c)(4) organizations have spent over $1 billion on political expenditures, compared with $103 million in the previous decade.

In addition to Hickenlooper, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Alex Padilla, Elizabeth Warren, Jon Tester, Dick Durbin, Raphael Warnock, Dianne Feinstein, Sherrod Brown, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley, Ben Ray Lujan, Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal, Catherine Cortez Masto, Cory Booker, and Edward J. Markey.

Full text of the letter is below or can be found HERE.

May 12, 2022

Dear Chairman Van Hollen and Ranking Member Hyde-Smith:

We respectfully request that you not include any riders prohibiting the Treasury Department or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from promulgating rules related to political spending in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill.

Since Citizens United, a flood of dark money has entered our political system.  501(c)(4) organizations are often the beneficiaries of these funds, using them to engage in political activity.

Past appropriations bills have included several objectionable policy riders, including a rider preventing the IRS from revising or issuing new rules governing the political spending of 501(c)(4) organizations.  These riders render the IRS unable to provide clear guidance to nonprofits on what types of activities are permissible.  These riders are unnecessary because the rulemaking process itself provides ample opportunities for public debate and dissent to ensure that the rulemaking reflects the interests of the public.

To ensure that the FY 2023 FSGG bill enables agencies to effectively carry out their duties and serve the American people, we urge you to refrain from including policy riders that would impede the IRS’s ability to proceed with necessary and appropriate rules governing political activity.  

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