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May 28, 2015

Opinion: IRS the Wrong Place to Police Nonprofit Politicking

The government should leave the Internal Revenue Service to its job of collecting taxes and get the agency out of the business of monitoring nonprofit groups' election activity, a fellow with a group that promotes free political speech writes in a Wall Street Journal column.

Citing the controversy over alleged IRS targeting of conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status, Scott Blackburn, a researcher at the Center for Competitive Politics, argues that the Federal Election Commission should determine whether an applicant is a 501(c)(4) social-welfare group or a political committee. Both entities are nonprofit, but only the latter can explicitly work to elect or defeat candidates.

The IRS asks applicant groups whether they spend money to influence elections, putting it in the position of policing political speech, Mr. Blackburn writes. "It is a bad idea to have a tax-collection agency monitoring the political activities of tax-exempt groups. Worse still that it would do so without any expertise. And silly when the job is already done by another agency," he says.