The IRS and Treasury Department are looking to crack down on 501(c)4 groups—tax-exempt organizations that spent a reported $309 million in last year's election without having to reveal their donors. The groups (which the IRS code defines as promoting "the common good and general welfare") are allowed to get involved with politics so long as it's not their "primary purpose," but the exact meaning of that phrase has been hazy. Yesterday's proposal would restrict such activity, the Los Angeles Times reports. Under the proposed rules, an ad by such a group that included a candidate's name would be banned within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary, the AP reports.
501(c)4s exist on both sides of the aisle; they include the Koch brother-funded Americans for Prosperity as well as the pro-Obama Priorities USA. But conservatives are expressing concern over the potential clampdown. "This smacks of the administration trying to shut down potential critics," says House Ways and Means Committee chair Dave Camp. Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, meanwhile, says the plan "will have a much more profound impact on grass-roots and community organizations than on the well-heeled groups it supposedly targets." But officials plan a 90-day comment period for the proposals, and the groups will have time to collect plenty of cash before next year's election, the AP notes. "We are committed to getting this right," says a Treasury rep. (Read more IRS stories.)