The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, are notorious for their bankrolling of conservative candidates and initiatives. Their newest push, a bill that would ban the IRS from collecting the names of donors to tax-exempt groups, passed the House's tax-writing committee on April 28.
The bill passed along party lines, 23 to 15, reports USA Today.
Mark Holden, an executive at Koch Industries, and chairman of the Koch-funded Freedom Partners, said that Americans have the right to “anonymous free speech.” Holden’s comment makes reference to the landmark Citizens United Supreme Court case, which found that campaign donations amount to freedom of speech.
Gathering information on donors “is not used for any real, legitimate purpose, but by and large, seems to be used by people or activists groups to get lists together to target and intimidate people, and that’s completely inappropriate,” Holden said.
“Tax-exempt groups should not be forced to expend precious resources on unnecessary documentation and tax administration rather than focusing on their charitable missions,” Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois, the House bill’s sponsor, said.
Fred Wertheimer, president of the watchdog group Democracy 21, disputed the claims.
“What the House Republicans on the [Ways and Means] committee are doing is taking a major campaign-finance problem and making it worse,” Wertheimer said. He added that eliminating IRS review could open the tax-exempt groups up to foreign contributions, which are illegal in U.S. elections. “You are eliminating any ability to hold nonprofits accountable.”
The sentiment was echoed in a letter send to the Ways and Means committee in opposition of the bill.
According to The Huffington Post, the letter claimed that “Eliminating the existing requirement for disclosure to the IRS of donations to 501(c)(4) ‘social welfare’ groups would open the door wide for secret, unaccountable money from foreign governments, foreign corporations and foreign individuals to be illegally laundered into federal elections through 501(c)(4) groups.”