In remarks at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen said that the IRS would not finish the rulemaking process on new regulations governing 501(c)(4) activities before the end of the year. He cited the volume of comments submitted as one of the reasons the work would not be completed before the end of the year:
During the comment period, which ended in February, we received more than 150,000 comments. That’s a new American record for an IRS rulemaking comment period. And in fact, I’m told if you take all the comments on all the Treasury and IRS regulations for the last seven years, double that number, you are close to the number of comments that we have on this single regulation.
We are beginning to review those and analyze them. Obviously it’s going to take a little while to sort through them all because we treat them seriously. These are people across the political spectrum who have taken the time to write to give us their views on both what the definition of political activities ought to be, how much of it you should be able to engage in, and then to which organizations should it apply.
It will take us awhile once we finish reviewing the comments and hold a public hearing to consider possibly re-proposing a modified regulation and obtaining more public comments. So as I’ve said in the past, it means it is unlikely we are going to be able to complete this process before the end of the year.
The rules in question would have required 501(c)(4)s to either stop most of the things they do—such as voter guides or even non-partisan get-out-the-vote efforts—or reorganize under a different section of the tax code that requires disclosure of donors names. Judging from the way Brendan Eich was hounded from Mozilla this past week for his support for traditional marriage, it’s not too hard to guess how those requirements would affect the fundraising of such groups. [See, for example, the comments submitted on by The Heritage Foundation by David Addington, December 19, 2013]