Congressmembers on both sides of the aisle yesterday joined forces to pass the so-called “Jobs for America Act” (H.R. 4).
In the vote, 221 Republicans and 32 Democrats matched the absurd anti-regulatory rhetoric of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other Big Business groups with absurd anti-regulatory policy. The bill contains provisions designed to stifle, stall, shrink and stop safeguards the public relies on and includes the text of familiar deregulatory bills like the Regulatory Accountability Act and the REINS Act (which the House already has voted on). If enacted, H.R. 4 represents a green light allowing reckless corporations to do simply whatever they want with as little oversight as possible.
Big Business groups have been making hyperbolic claims about regulations killing jobs – and the inverse claim that gutting regulation will create jobs – for decades. The predictions never come true.
Consider the following examples from Public Citizen’s recent report:
- 1974: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration bans the carcinogen, vinyl chloride. The plastics industry claimed that the OSHA regulation would kill 2.2 million jobs. Those claims were proven completely false. A new way to manufacture vinyl chloride was developed within a year without any jobs lost.
- 1975: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration increases the fuel efficiency standard. Industry reports warned that 1.5 million jobs would be lost. By 1985, automakers had met the higher standard without losing any jobs.
- 1990: The Environmental Protection Agency sets new pollution standards under the Clean Air Act. Business Groups responded with doomsday hysterics, claiming up to 2 million jobs would be lost. Those were proven entirely wrong. Instead, according to the Investor’s Business Daily, “Pollution has been falling across the board for decades, even while the nation’s population and economy have expanded.”
- 1995: EPA removes lead from gasoline. Monsanto claimed 43 million jobs would be killed. The removal of lead is now considered one of the biggest public health success stories while gas prices did not dramatically increase and no jobs were lost.
The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has weighed in on the progress the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made after last years’ “scandal,” and the majority is advocating bright line rules for political activity for nonprofits.
Committee members criticized the current facts and circumstances test and called for its replacement, lending their voice to the many nonprofits and citizens that have been calling for a bright-line definition of political activity applicable to all nonprofits. Such a rule would make it easier for nonprofits to engage in our democracy without fear of jeopardizing their nonprofit status.
“The facts and circumstances test used by the IRS was criticized as difficult to administer by every IRS official interviewed,” says the report. It goes on to say that the test “produced subjective and inconsistent decisions on applications.”
The minority staff filed a separate report, and did not discuss the facts and circumstances test or provide recommendations for the future. The full report is available here.
The IRS is currently engaged in a rulemaking that could provide the sort of easily administered definition the report – and Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project – calls for. A new draft of the rules is expected early next year.
Emily Peterson-Cassin is the Bright Lines Project Coordinator for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division
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by Emily Peterson-Cassin
As the Senate Rules Committee meets today to discuss transparency in elections, there’s a valuable asset in the fight against secret money that won’t be on the agenda: an IRS rulemaking that could change the definition for political activity by nonprofits and put a speed limit on dark money spending.
Nonprofits registered under tax code sections 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) have been spending millions attempting to sway voters, particularly after the Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Citizens United that allowed corporations to spend unlimited money to influence elections. These political operatives avoid disclosing their donors, and their influence is growing. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, three times more dark money spending has taken place in 2014 than at this point during 2012. This is notable since 2012 was a presidential campaign year and political spending is generally lower in midterm election years.
The IRS’s current, vague standard for what counts as political activity is like a traffic sign that says “go whatever speed you want.”