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Grassroots Citizens Deluge IRS with Historic Protest of Free Speech Rules

Faith & Freedom Coalition, a grassroots pro-family public policy organization with over 750,000 members and 400 local chapters, announced today that its campaign opposing the proposed Internal Revenue Service regulations governing “social welfare” 501(c)(4) organizations had generated an estimated 61,461 public comments from grassroots citizens urging that the regulations be withdrawn.  Between digital and manual submissions, roughly 130,000 comments were submitted to the IRS, a number that shattered all records for a federal agency in a rule-making procedure. (For comparison, approximately 7,500 comments were recently submitted to relevant federal agencies on the Keystone Pipeline issue.) The proposed regulations would prohibit the distribution of nonpartisan material, including voter guides or Congressional Scorecards, and candidate forums by 501(c)(4) organizations during “blackout” periods before primary and general elections.  Labor unions were exempted from the regulations.  An issue organization could not even mention the name of an elected official—federal, state, or local—in a communication to its members on a legislative issue during the “blackout” period, even when the communication simply urged a vote for or against pending legislation. “The IRS regulations are a dagger aimed at the heart of freedom of speech in America,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of Faith & Freedom Coalition.  “These gag rules formalize after the fact the illegal and contemptible harassment of citizen organizations by the IRS.  They are unconstitutional and clearly violate the First Amendment.  We will fight until they are withdrawn, blocked by Congressional action, or overturned by the federal courts.” FFC chapters organized phone trees and email campaigns to encourage citizens to comment on the proposed regulations.  In addition, FFC launched to collect comments and facilitate viral distribution in social media.  An estimated 3.6 million people in the Christian community were contacted during the campaign by email, phone, or social media.

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