Sen. Chuck Schumer has had a bee in his bonnet ever since 2010, when the Supreme Court ruled in its Citizens United decision that independent campaign expenditures by third- party groups are protected under the First Amendment.
In a recent speech, the New York Democrat came out swinging against the thousands of mom-and-pop organizations that constitute the Tea Party, citing campaign finance laws as being instrumental in the Tea Party's success and leading, he claims, to unfair elections.
Schumer went on to urge a tightening of restrictions on the political activity of conservative non-profit groups. “There are many things that can be done administratively by the IRS and other government agencies -- we must redouble those efforts immediately,” Schumer said.
In other words, “let’s set the IRS after them.” Given that Schumer has consistently leveled his attacks against conservative and Tea Party groups while giving a pass to big spenders on the Left, there is good reason to suspect that his comments may have more to do with politics than principle.
It's convenient that Democrats' sudden concern over election laws always seems to come in years when Republicans stand poised to make major gains. The conspicuous silence accompanying President Obama's 2012 reelection, and all the big money that propelled it, is demonstrative.
Schumer's comments come at a time when the Internal Revenue Service is considering unprecedented new regulations on 501(c)(4) non-profit organizations that are designed to restrict political activity and to threaten the tax-free status of many groups.
These new regulations would effectively codify the targeting of conservative and libertarian grassroots groups that was instigated by the IRS going into the 2012 elections. They would require 501(c)(4)s to devote more than 50 percent of their activities to “social welfare” — a term which is as yet undefined and left entirely to the discretion of the IRS.
Astute readers will recall that the last time the IRS was allowed to act on its own discretion, it abused its power, effectively suppressing the votes of as many as 8.5 million grassroots citizens in the 2012 election by burying them in paperwork, harassment and bureaucracy.
Schumer knows this as well as anyone. In 2012, he was one of the co-authors of a letter to the IRS urging stricter scrutiny on conservative non-profits.
It is not surprising that the Democratic senator is so apoplectic over the increased level of political activity by outsider groups. After all, his own campaigns have historically been funded by lobbyists, law firms and Wall Street investment companies, the latter of whom he went out of his way to defend during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Anything that allows the grassroots to have a greater voice in politics is bound to be a threat to establishment politicos like Schumer, whose connections to special interests give them a built-in advantage and protect their incumbency from potential challengers.
The Tea Party grew out of shared ideas. It was spontaneous and principled. It attracted attention because people were attracted to the common sense rejection of an abusive government that had overstepped its role.
What more telling reaction can there be than the increasingly desperate attempts by incumbents to silence the opposition? The establishment knows that it cannot win the war of ideas, so it resorts to regulatory bullying to preserve its power.
There is a silver lining in all of this. For the first time in decades, the entrenched power-brokers in Washington are in real danger of being unseated by authentic, principled defenders of liberty and opportunity, and this terrifies them.
You can see the fear when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky threatens to punch us in the nose. You can hear it when Schumer compares Tea Partiers to fleas. This is not the rhetoric of men who are secure in their power.
We’ve got them on the run, but we have to remain vigilant. The new IRS regulations threaten to silence activists who, for the first time in their lives, have found a real voice in the political process.
The IRS is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until Feb. 27. Go to www.IRSTarget.com to demand public hearings and preserve the free speech rights of all Americans from the gray-suited soviets who want to take them away.Matt Kibbe is the president of FreedomWorks and author of the upcoming book "Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff" (Harper Collins 2014). Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link.