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 HatchSupreme Court wrestles with corruption law IRS: Annual unpaid tax liability was 8B Hatch asks Treasury for memo that decreases transparency of tax rules 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 McConnellReid: Judiciary a 'rubber stamp' for Trump-McConnell Iran and heavy water: Five things to know Overnight Finance: House rejects financial adviser rule; Obama rebukes Sanders on big banks MORE (Ky.), Mike EnziMike EnziGOP blocks slate of Obama judicial nominees Overnight Finance: New rules proposed to curb Wall Street pay GOP senator tries to tie 'No budget, no pay' to funding bill MORE (Wyo.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderDemocrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico pressure builds; Big tariff vote Wednesday Senate votes to increase wind energy funding MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynJudiciary Dems seek hearing on voting rights First US Zika death reported in Puerto Rico Senate confirms Obama's long-stalled ambassador to Mexico MORE (Texas), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerIran and heavy water: Five things to know Trump seeks approval from foreign policy experts, but hits snags The Trail 2016: The establishment comes around MORE (Tenn.), Pat RobertsPat RobertsInvestments in research and development are investments in American jobs GOP senator blocks Obama Army nominee over Guantanamo Senators call on Obama administration to address steel industry issues MORE (Kan.), John ThuneJohn ThuneAir traffic control plan faces tough fight ahead GOP blasts Obama for slow economic growth Overnight Tech: Business data deals on FCC agenda MORE (S.D.) and Rand PaulRand PaulOvernight Energy: Clinton makes her pitch to coal country Rand Paul calls on Clinton to apologize for coal job losses Five ways Trump will attack Clinton MORE (Ky.).

— Bernie Becker contributed to this report.

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