GOP senators press IRS to keep nonprofit donors secret

"The privacy interests of donors is widely recognized and valued. Various public policy initiatives have rightly encouraged donations to social welfare organizations, and these efforts are threatened when private information about donors is not adequately protected," the letter states.

The new letter, from Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchTreasury officials to meet with lawmakers on inversion rules A bipartisan bright spot we can’t afford to pass up: child welfare reform Medicare trust fund running out of money fast MORE (R-Utah) and other GOP senators, says that, by requesting the confidential donor names, the agency has set in motion a process that will result in the names being available for public viewing at the IRS when the investigated groups are approved to become a 501(c)(4).

"The IRS appears to be circumventing the statutory privacy protections that Congress has long provided donors," exposing the donors to "possible harassment," the Republicans said."The public release of private donor information exposes citizens to possible harassment and intimidation by those who oppose the goals of the charitable organization."

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been clashing over 501(c)(4) and other tax-exempt groups, some of which are spending millions of dollars this year on election advertising. 

The IRS currently says that the primary purpose of 501(c)(4) groups should not be political, which has led some legal analysts to assert that those organizations should use less than 50 percent of their budget on political causes.  

Watchdogs argue groups are misusing the 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status to keep their donors secret as they spend millions on election ads. 

The Republican senators requested that the IRS provide the statutory authority to require donor names, the frequency of requests for the information, and which officials were involved in requesting and approving the "questions requesting donor names," among other issues.

Along with Hatch, the Republican senators who signed the letter were Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCongress fails on promises to restore regular order and stop funding by crisis Overnight Healthcare: Dems dig in over Zika funding Business groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board MORE (Ky.), Mike EnziMike EnziJudd Gregg: The silver lining Judd Gregg: A little change Lobbying World MORE (Wyo.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderVeep auditions in overdrive Senators press Obama education chief on reforms Senate honors Tennessee coach Pat Summitt MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's 12:30 Report House to vote on NRA-backed gun measure Attorney general says she will defer to FBI on Clinton emails MORE (Texas), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerVeep auditions in overdrive Gingrich, Christie top Trump’s VP list: report Senate honors Tennessee coach Pat Summitt MORE (Tenn.), Pat RobertsPat RobertsWhat Senate backers aren’t saying about the GMO “compromise” bill Overnight Regulation: FDA raises concerns over GMO labeling bill FDA concerned with GMO labeling 'compromise' MORE (Kan.), John ThuneJohn ThuneVeep auditions in overdrive Gingrich, Christie top Trump’s VP list: report Congress must resolve net neutrality once and for all MORE (S.D.) and Rand PaulRand PaulTrump campaign loses two more staffers Trump's new digital strategist quickly leaves campaign Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office MORE (Ky.).

— Bernie Becker contributed to this report.

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