To Silence Political Dissent, IRS Issues New Rule Censoring Our Free Speech

CensoredANH-USA could be targeted—along with your right to political representation. Action Alert!

In May 2013, the IRS was caught illegally discriminating against Tea Party groups applying for 501(c)4 nonprofit status. In the wake of the scandal, the IRS worked to eliminate illegal censorship of political dissent—by attempting to legalize it.

On Black Friday, under cover of a day when no one follows the news, the IRS issued proposed rules to severely restrict the activities of 501(c)4 nonprofit organizations such as ANH-USA. These rules would place strict limitations on speech, eliminate your voice in the political process, and put consumer advocacy nonprofits like ANH-USA under a gag order, leaving powerful private interests and their government allies free to operate in secret. In short, the new IRS rules are an egregious violation of the First Amendment.

501(c)4s are defined as tax-exempt organizations that “primarily” work to “promote social welfare” (for example, through public education), but that are still allowed to engage in political activity. The IRS’s new rules would shift many activities traditionally classified as “social welfare” and recategorize them as “political intervention.” Worse, the IRS is seeking to strictly limit the meaning of the word “primarily” so that, for example, the IRS could allow 501(c)4s to engage in political activities only .01% of the time…essentially eliminating their ability to take any political action!

The new IRS rules also censor what 501(c)4s can tell the public. For example, even naming a candidate in any public communication through any medium, even orally—and this includes even vague references to him or her—within sixty days of a general election or thirty days of a primary election will be considered “political activity.”

Under these rules, the speech of 501(c)4s will be severely curtailed, as they may be afraid to engage in any political activities for fear of IRS or government retaliation. Any disgruntled politician could easily ask the IRS to revoke the 501(c)4 status of groups who disagree with his or her politics! Also, incumbents will be given a thirty- to sixty-day free pass to introduce legislation with limited public scrutiny.

Consider the implications: Sen. Durbin of Illinois—you may remember him as the anti-supplement senator who wants to regulate supplements like drugs—is up for reelection in 2014. If he reintroduces or has new anti-natural health legislation filed during the sixty days before legislation, ANH-USA would be preventing from telling you about his connection to it.

Moreover, the IRS’s definition of “candidate” is absurdly broad—it can even be an individual up for nomination or appointment to any public office. As nominees are often current regulators, this means we wouldn’t be able to tell you about their connection to federal rules under debate…like the one we’re telling you about right now!

Federal law has in the past been quite clear that regulatory matters are not considered part of politics. It is not considered lobbying to contact your legislator about proposed rule changes. Now suddenly, in clear violation of the law, regulatory processes are going to be equated with electoral politics. This is very wrong and needs to be stopped now.

Without 501(c)4s—organizations that pool the resources of many like-minded individuals—the only remaining political influences will be the huge industries (Big Pharma, Big Agro, and Big Biotech included), unions, and other special interests that can afford to make enormous contributions and hire expensive lobbyists.

Action Alert! The IRS has no business in politics. Tell the agency to rescind this political gag order and protect the right of political dissenters and organizations that represent individuals like you! Please send your message to the IRS immediately!



  1. Re: To Silence Political Dissent, IRS Issues New Rule Censoring Our Free Speech, shouldn’t you also/preferably be advocating that we address our complaint to our Representative in the House?
    Couldn’t you, also, provide for such linkage?

  2. The IRS is clearly overstepping and should be limited to collection of taxes. All individuals and groups representing these individuals should have equal rights to voice their opinion and disseminate information so that everyone is equally informed and represented.

  3. it would be wise for you to pair your objection to this proposed rule with a proposal as to how to alternatively prohibit fake 501(c)4s from political action.

    1. Hi Lou–Thank you for your comment! On May 10, 2013, the IRS admitted to unfairly targeting conservative groups, including Tea Party groups:
      “The head of the Internal Revenue Service’s exempt organizations division apologized on Friday for the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups during the 2012 election. The apology by Lois Lerner, first reported by the Associated Press, revealed that groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status had received greater scrutiny.”

  4. To IRS
    The IRS is the tax collecting Agency for the US Government, and not involved with politics.
    Therefore I am asking you to immediately rescind this political gag-order imposed on ANH-USA and protect the right of political dissenters and organizations that represent individuals like me.
    Vreni Rod

  5. This article is VERY misleading. Non-profits were NEVER suppose to push a political agenda. Want to talk politics, go right ahead—you just can’t do it as a 501(c)4, otherwise us taxpayers are SUBSIDIZING your political agenda. Look into the history of this IRS rule for clarification. The IRS isn’t in the business of politics, and neither are 501(c)4’s.

  6. Allegedly the IRS gets its power to steal from us from the US Constitution and the IRS code. Have you ever seen any EVIDENCE that either one of those apply to you? Listen as I ask an agent in the legal department for the evidence. Notice he never provides it. Why do you think that is?

  7. A nonresident alien is an individual who is not a U.S. citizen or a resident alien. Therefor not subject to withholding to the IRS.
    There is no provision in the Internal Revenue Code that imposes a direct income tax on the Citizens of the fifty (50) States, nor a requirement to file an income tax return, unless employed by the Federal Government. If you are a Citizen of Florida, a Republic, or any other state, and not a Federal Employee, nor a citizen or resident of the District of Columbia, you are not required by law to file a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

    1. Abraham Lincoln introduced income tax in 1863 to fund the Civil War. All US citizens are required to file income tax returns. Aliens who do not claim legal status and do not earn income in the USA do not have to file, but those who earn income in the USA must file as must all US citizens living abroad. IRS Form 2555 is for US citizens living abroad, and while they can exempt $90,000 of any foreign income, the rest is subject to taxes.

  8. I read a fair amount of the 7pg document and it’s hard to see much egregious about it, though I’m no expert on regulatory affairs. Due to some organizations taking advantage of 501(c)4 status to promote a political platform, reforms might be needed and it seems the IRS needs specific ways to limit abuse of non-profit status. If you are concerned that there might be sections of the proposed rule that also restrict legitimate non-profit activities, then please submit specific language changes. I’m all for free speech and want good info to help our government make good decisions regarding our health. At the same time, politically-motivated expenditures by non-profits need to be monitored.

  9. I remember when the Roman Catholic churches began extorting promises from candidates to ban contraception, abortion and equality for homosexuals (in clear violation of the Establishment Clause). Those messages displaced doctrinal content from the pulpit and from official statements. Church officers above the level of parish priest were transformed into political operatives.
    Then a President (who identified himself with law-and-order) told the IRS not to enforce the law in return for favored treatment of HIS party’s candidates. The word got around and many other churches, mostly Baptist and Evangelical broke the law as well.
    Taxed secular political organizers saw a competitive disadvantage. The tax code section 501(c)4 covers non-religious organizations with the same purposes that the churches had abandoned. Why not incorporate as 501(c)4 and go straight into prohibited political activity?
    That was tolerated until about 2008 when a few dozen wealthy donors began mass producing 501(c)4 political operations. Those same few donors birthed far more filings in 2012 dwarfing their political opposition. Your tax dollars subsidized the political propaganda of Billionaires for over three decades and now each new political 501(c)4 expects the same free ride.
    ANY political organization can incorporate as a Political Action Committee (PAC) and do whatever it wants with post-tax money. ANY 501(c)4 can incorporate a sibling PAC and coordinate efforts as long as budgets are separate. I belong to and contribute to several such “twins”.
    Why doesn’t ANH-USA do that? Perhaps because it was never big-Pharma verses natural healing. The medical community knows we are being “played”.
    Big-Pharma owns the largest supplement manufacturers and sells raw materials to many of the others. That company in India or Vietnam that supplies herbs and extracts already is or will be owned by big-Pharma.
    Big-Pharma owns the largest contract compounders that package and label product for hundreds of ma-and-pa supplement “manufacturers”. Through them big-Pharma funds ANH-USA.
    Big-Pharma pays for Senator Durbin’s campaign and will do the same for his opponent. It will own the winner either way. The choreographed battle earns sympathetic contributions for 501(c)4s from the “little people” on both sides, sympathetic contributions that would not be given to a PAC. The tax-subsidy becomes a bonus.

    1. Hi Robert–Thank you for your comments; they are always constructive and thought-provoking. However, I must correct you here: ANH-USA is not “Big Pharma funded”–either directly or indirectly. The vast majority of our funding comes from grants and gifts from small, individual donors. For additional information on our funding, I invite you to review our 2012 990 form (our Federal EIN is 54-1952806, and our legal name is the American Association for Health Freedom). Best, ANH-USA

  10. I don’t think corporations and the like should have the same free speech rights as individuals.
    If you want to speak out do so as an individual, but don’t hide behind some third party organization because you don’t want the world to know who you are and to really know what you believe.

    1. Two individuals is a corporation or organization. They don’t use it to hide, but to raise funds and collaborate with like-minded individuals.. Even so, you’re assuming anonymity is a problem. If you were intimidated, retaliated or coerced against for expressing your political views by your enemies, you too would want anonymity or you would self-censorship your own free speech and actions.

  11. This is ridiculous! People have a right to know about health solutions other than the drugs-and-surgery advocated by the snools of Big Pharma.

  12. Any rules the IRS is trying to enforce affect only your tax-exempt status, not your free speach.. You can do what you like but don’t expect to keep your tax-exempt status if what you do is political. The IRS is absolutely correct.
    Better still would be for Congress to eliminate tax-exempt status, which is grossly abused. The job ot the IRS should simply be to collect tax, not to have to interpret a mass of complicate laws.

  13. With limitations, I applaud your challenge.
    Get a big magnifying glass. Put it between the Sun and the IRS. Transparency that is. Anti-septic~! Crystal laser torch. Ha.
    I’d use the claim against ‘bait and switch’. Clearly if it were just an equitable challenge, the evidence is clear.
    But that begs the issue underlying. That apparently when we allow ourselves the luxuries of a privileged system, we can lose sight of the accompanying lost status of rights. To use their corporate structures, and then think we aren’t subordinate to their authority in most all things, is perhaps short-sighted. In fact, isn’t there a murky divide between two distinct things~? Rights as ordained through creation, and the appearance of rights through granted privileges of created citizen status, within claim of any Corporate Fiction’s reach.
    You see, under that fraud, is the misapplication of income tax liability, never coded for any but foreigners and voluntary privileged classes. [welfare participants]
    I respectfully contend that all of these activities have been and are possible to do and achieve on the private side, without government sanction, privilege, or the liabilities that come with. We just have to give up the government sponsored limitations on liabilities that come with their offer.
    As a people we’ve lost the capabilities to stand accountable for ourselves. Anymore~?
    So no. I’m not suggesting disengage. The argument is valid. Show where authority is abused and abusive. But don’t expect that a campaign, as righteous as it may be on these points, will ultimately change the critical part of this authority imbalance and blatant fraud.

  14. I see this as part of Obama’s apparent agenda to turn the USA into a full on police state under martial law. We are already well on the way. Probably part of the ramp-up for one world government.

    1. The police state began in the 1950s with Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI) and Congressman Richard Nixon (R-CA) and has risen ever since. Dissent is patriotic, but it must be responsible and accurate. What Obama did (including accepting false information on Syria, identical to Curveball’s myth of WMDs pushed by Condi Rice about Iraq to justify an invasion that was unnecessary and destabilized the entire region), came with the NSA that knew about 9/11 long before Obama took office. Obama is no prize, but worse were Bush I and Bush II and the secretive meetings with FBI, CIA, NSA and other rogue groups. The USA has long been a police state, and not until NSA is decommissioned will there be a slight possibility for the return of democracy–but that will never materialize until the bought judgment on Citizens United is overturned and “we the people” is read literally: mortals, not corporations, are in charge of the government. The Koch Brothers are merely fronts for the John Birch party that their father bankrolled.

  15. So it’s OK for corporations to have unlimited access to 501(c)4 nonprofit status, but not a REAL 501(c)4 nonprofit organization? This is not constitutional! Get it corrected!

  16. Free speech is a Constitutional right. Your job is to enforce tax law, not making political

  17. So now the dam IRS is thinking they can limit our voice. Who the FK do they think they are?
    Looks like they are way over stepping what they are meant to do. We need to ELIMINATE THE IRS and the GOVERNMENT WE HAVE. It is time.

  18. Actually the IRS only denied progressive groups. Stop yelling lies! 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 have no business engaging in politics. The original ruling from the 1950’s is absolutely correct. There should be NO political activity by these “social welfare” pacs! They are just being used as cover to flood untraceable money into our elections. The best government money can BUY!

  19. If you’re espousing political views as a group, you violate non-profit status. That’s the way it is. They didn’t target ONLY Tea Party related groups, but ALL political groups, Right AND Left.

    1. When any organization applies to the IRS for tax exempt status the IRS, by law, MUST investigate that organization to make sure that it is non-partisan. Because of the Citizens United Rule there were THOUSANDS more applications than normal and that created backlog. Progressive and conservative groups were investigated. The IRS did not do anything illegal, the IRS did its job.

      1. So true David.
        The law actually does not permit any political affiliation or promotion of biased views. The work “primarily” is not in the real definition. That was added to make it seem as if some political action was okay.
        501(c)4’s are meant ONLY to promote social welfare. Let’s stick to the true reason for allowing tax exempt status so that neither side is paying for the other party’s ads.

      2. While there were a few cases of the IRS holding up liberal group applications, it was PROVEN to obstruct numerous conservative group applications. If you plan to defend the egregious actions of the IRS, at least know your facts.

      3. Actually, if you read the IRS Guidelines, they are to conduct an investigation that is expedient and non-biased and based solely upon their scope of authority. They failed in those areas, as they went far beyond the boundaries legally and ethically. To say they did nothing wrong or unethical, the person needs to be uninformed or just partisan…

    2. Since you have finally identified your group ANH-USA as a tea party front group I will no longer be reading anything from your sham outfit. Unsubscribe me

      1. I agree with you and will unsubscribe myself, not because I am a liberal, but I know the law and there is nothing in the law that allows any charity to politicize, as ANH-USA is doing. I am against GMOs, and write against them, but I am not a charity and can do so with my own time and money. ANH-USA has abused its charitable status and should surrender it. You are not alone.

  20. All this government manipulation would be halted by simply passing the “Fair Tax”. If you aren’t familiar, please read the book by Neal Boortz & John Linder, and you will understand. It is truly a fair tax system, and would remove all this unwarranted power from the federal government. I say “simply” because a grassroots movement from us would provide the motivation to congress to get the thing done. And many more things would be accomplished by the Fair Tax: It would show us clearly who is really working to represent the people, and who is in government for their own self interest, because the latter group would oppose the Fair Tax. Also, the IRS would be eliminated except as an accounting agency to accept the flow of tax money into the federal coffers. It would lose all of its regulatory and coercive power. The economy would flourish-no tax burden. There are many, many other advantages to the Fair Tax. Please read the book (actually there are two books) and help spread the word.

  21. This seems not totally dissimilar from what the UK government is trying to do to silence political dissent/debate in the run up to elections, nicknamed the “gagging law”

  22. This can be serious to those organizations that do not get a lot of funding. Donations to 501C4 already are not a tax deduction item. Huge political PAC groups may easily weather this storm.

  23. Non-profits can be political through using Education. I have worked for a non-profit, Church’s can use 5% of there time politically. It is hard to keep up on the laws. Free speech is right up there with the 2nd Ad. Forever more Dick Durbin should be ashamed! He, Hatch, Hillary, Harken, are some that started this many yrs ago. Hatch quit when enough of us got after him. Hillary would of kept up,but she left. Sorry, but for some reason so far, the Left are always trying to tell us what to do.
    ANH-USA is doing a GREAT job, and should be able to keep it up. But the LEFT again says No.
    Sad state of affairs, let’s not quibble over someones spelling lets get to work and stop some of this nonsense.

    1. The “Left” is stalwart in its support of free-speech, and free-speech is hailed and supported by Tom Harkin (whom I know ). Free speech means responsible speech and it is not limited (you cannot shout Fire in a crowded theater, for example), and there are laws against libel, slander, etc. Republicans, Conservatives, Tea Party members have tried to stifle free speech since the days of US Senator Joe McCarthy (R-WI) and his enemies list–copied by Richard M. Nixon who served on McCarthy”s congressional hearings and later became president and used illegal wire-taps and tape recordings. The NSA is from the Bush era (and Obama is complicit and for that he lost my support, as he has allowed it to continue), but what one says can be said in open dialog–with responsibility.

  24. Proof is on C-span, Fox news, IRS did not go after the Liberals. For gosh sakes, do research, or study or something.

    1. If people think Fox News or C-Span or other major networks give impartial and unbiased news, then it is time to expose and correct this ignorance. It is tantamount to claiming that Megyn Kelly was right to tell children “Santa is and always way white”–historically, racially, and ethnically not true. Fox News did report IRS investigation of various groups, but to claim it singled out conservative groups is a lie. Since I do taxes and am a registered PTIN, I receive IRS circulars all the time. You misstate the IRS as you error in claiming that C-Span is an unbiased source. More liberal groups were investigated than the 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 groups, and all were scrutinized to make sure their charitable activities did not cross the boundary of education over to indoctrination or politicization. Any quality journalist who has completed serious studies knows that all quotations must be verifiable by all people, and anonymous tipsters are usually fraud. I cannot think of a single Fox News personality who is trustworthy, and just because Megyn Kelly took a degree in law does not mean she is competent to speak about law, any more than Michele Bachmann’s law degree from Regent University (Pat Robertson’s 700 Club) can be considered a lawyer (she failed the first bar exam and only passed it after additional studies). Investigate first.

  25. I think that the original law was to promote “only ” social welfare. Then President Eisenhower {R} changed the rules { contrary to the law } to read “primarily”social welfare. This allows political organizations to political work & then complain that the IRS is discriminating against them.

    1. We are not prohibited from promoting laws that support social benefits and conversely those which do not. Naming those who pervert the Constitution for whom they are is political speech and as such cannot be tampered with. The chilling effect is obvious.
      We are not yelling fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire. We are yelling fire because there is a fire and it behooves us to warn our fellows. The attempt at the smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand is preposterous. Nothing in the law or the Constitution grants the government to restrict speech at any time unless it harms another by inducement to fraud, fright and the resulting effects or slander/libel. These are all actionable matters that have remedies already.
      Then again there is nothing that says we cannot associate as individuals and promote these things on our own. We don’t need their permission, it is a right. Want to be tax exempt, work for donations and keep you yap shut about it. If no one is directing your work and you are not producing anything but a service to humanity out of the goodness of you heart then who cares if supporters help you with necessities and things you need. Individuals who work for a living were not part of the tax scheme in 1913 and they were not taxed on the market value of their labor. Nothing has changed but the smoky room where they use a bit of sleight of hand to convince you it is so now. I know exactly what I am talking about.

  26. I think you’re being alarmist. The proposed new legislation is for the purpose of sanctioning special interest groups such as the various Koch brothers-funded front groups that are funneling large amounts of money to political parties in the guise of non-profits. I don’t think the IRS gives a damn about organizations like the ANH. And Bryan Ashby, above, is correct when he states that “Any rules the IRS is trying to enforce affect only your tax-exempt status, not your free speech.” While I think that there are degrees of involvement in the political process, and the IRS is perhaps being extreme in its criteria, this is necessary at this time to curtail the involvement of big money in politics and to dismantle the network of secrecy in which such organizations shroud their activities.

    1. Don’t put you head in the sand. If they illegally targeted conservative groups during an election year thereby interfering with the election process, which may be a felony under the RICO Act and especially a “conspiracy” pursuant to 18 USC Section 241 and 242, they sure as will fudge any other chance to get what they want which is complete suppression of opposition.
      I know what I am talking about I have been ringing the bell for thirty years or more and a degree in law. I think you represent a group of fragile individuals who for the denial simply cannot handle the truth. You seek the comfort of your beliefs in exposing them to others while actually trying to reassure yourself. I do not say this to find fault I see the truth of things because I have spent most of my life learning everything I can about the matters at hand.
      The Framers were men with classical educations. Jefferson spoke five languages by the time he hit law school at 19. They would put any politician to shame in this day and age. They were true statesmen not some buy them as you can politician. There is political speech and there is lawful speech. To speak the truth is lawful in any manner of jurisprudence based system, political speech can range from prudent constraints to social matters to full blown rants from people like Pelosi-pass a law to find out what is in it????? that is why they want us silent, we are showing them how utterly absurd their BS is.
      Anyway I hope you get the point

  27. The IRS is just doing what it is required to do, and it’s about time. Too many so-called not-for-profits,
    501(c)4’s among others were breaking the IRS code which governs what they do. As a former President of a 501 (c) 3 organization, we had to adhere to strict requirements regarding any political activity, particularly electoral politics or we would lose our 501(c)3 status.
    The IRS investigated not only Tea Party organizations, but also those deemed liberal for abrogating the law regarding promoting or donating to political campaigns and/or other political activity. To say that the IRS “has no business in politics” is ludicrous…their job is to make sure that 501(c)3’s and 501(c)4’s stay within the parameters of the IRS code that governs them.

    1. Sadly, Gloria, your willing relinquishing of your basic freedoms to an all powerful, and often and increasingly tyrannical government, as led by progressives and other statists is all too common. Soon, you too will be scratching your head and wondering just how your loss of freedom and your absolute servitude to the dear leaders happened right in front of your eyes.
      It won’t just be the conservatives that they go after and seek to dominate and destroy. It will be you…. Ignoring history and it’s outcomes is not a good plan. Freedom is NOT free….

    1. You have a right to free speech. You have no right to a tax exemption. We must all play by the rules or they become meaningless.

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