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 HatchThe holy grail of tax policy GOP lawmakers ask IRS to explain M wasted on unusable email system GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election 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 McConnellPelosi urges end to Pentagon's clawback of soldier overpayments Coffman’s stance on climate change disingenuous, irresponsible Bill Murray honored with Mark Twain Prize MORE (Ky.), Mike EnziMike EnziGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Report: Feds spend billions on PR Restive GOP freshmen eye entitlement reform MORE (Wyo.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderObama meets a crossroads for his healthcare law Music streamer Spotify joins Gillibrand’s push for paid family leave GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynReport: Investor visa program mainly funds wealthy areas GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Conservatives backing Trump keep focus on Supreme Court MORE (Texas), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerGlobal climate pact may bump into Senate roadblock GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Trump appoints fundraiser to national security advisory council MORE (Tenn.), Pat RobertsPat RobertsGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election More Senate Republicans pressure Treasury over debt-equity rules GOP leaders advise members to proceed with caution on Trump MORE (Kan.), John ThuneJohn ThuneWhat will be in Obama’s Presidential Library GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Republicans question FCC watchdog's 'independence' MORE (S.D.) and Rand PaulRand PaulWhat the 'Bernie Sanders wing of the GOP' can teach Congress GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election How low is the bar for presidential candidates, anyway? MORE (Ky.).

— Bernie Becker contributed to this report.