July 08, 2015

Associations Now interviews George Constantine on delay in IRS’ political activity rules for social welfare organizations

2 min

Venable partner George E. Constantine was interviewed in a July 8, 2015 Associations Now article on the delay in political activity rules surrounding 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations. Following a record number of comments on proposed rules governing how much political activity such groups could participate in, the IRS announced it would revise its proposed rules. The agency gave no indication of when it would release the revised rules.

"They need to go through a rule-making process that may take long, but really takes into consideration the wide spectrum of opinions that are going to be out there, and come up with something workable," said Constantine. However, Constantine said the delay could be IRS wanting to avoid another targeting scandal with the 2016 election in full swing. "A lot of people just want to know where the lines are truly drawn in terms of the quantity of activity and in terms of what precisely is the type of activity that would not fit under an exempt purpose," he said. "As is the case with so many areas of the exempt section of the code, there's so much subjectivity right now. It's difficult for a well-meaning, risk-averse organization to operate and have comfort that what they’re doing is within the bounds of what’s required under the code."

Constantine added that the IRS should take its time to make sure it gets the new rules right. "This is a very sensitive area. It's been the focus of a number of hearings on the Hill, and I have to imagine that the IRS wants to approach this as carefully as possible," he said. "The fact that the first-round proposal was not received very well—to put it mildly—should provide more impetus for them to approach this next round as carefully as possible."