Dem congressman to sue IRS over "social welfare" rules

Rep. Chris Van Hollen says he wants to clarify the rules that allow groups to attain nonprofit status

By Jillian Rayfield

Published June 19, 2013 1:10PM (EDT)

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., says that he and two campaign finance watchdog groups will file a lawsuit against the IRS over the agency's policy of granting tax-exempt status to "social welfare" groups, because, he says, the IRS rules conflict with the law.

From the Huffington Post:

Van Hollen said he and watchdog groups Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 would sue to clarify an IRS regulation that he said was at odds with the law, which requires certain groups to "exclusively" engage in social welfare to earn nonprofit status. The IRS regulation permitting groups “primarily” engaged in social welfare allows the organizations to participate in an undefined amount of political activity, said the congressman, a leading advocate of campaign finance reform and ranking member of the House Budget Committee.

"We have now exhausted the administrative remedies and we do now plan to move forward," Van Hollen said at a recent event on campaign finance hosted by the Brennan Center for Justice. "I plan to move forward with these groups to file a lawsuit against the IRS to enforce the plain meaning of the law, and frankly get the IRS out of the business of trying to draw these fine distinctions between whether something is 49 percent or 48 percent, or whatever it may be, political activity."

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Campaign Finance Chris Van Hollen Democrats Irs Tea Party