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This article was originally published on Feb. 7, 2017.
President Trump has vowed to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a move that — if successful — would strike down the rules that prevent nonprofit organizations from electioneering.
In 2013, I had the opportunity to serve as a member of the Panel of Nonprofit Sector Representatives for the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations.
As a part of that service, BoardSource submitted a position paper that articulated why we should preserve the ban on political campaign intervention by 501(c)(3) organizations. Here’s what we said back in 2013, and what we believe still holds true today:
- Policy Advocacy is Allowed, And Should Be: Section 501(c)(3) organizations — including churches — should be and are allowed to engage in advocacy (including limited lobbying) in support of public policy positions that are aligned with their fundamental purpose, mission, or belief.
- Electioneering is Different: To allow 501(c)(3) organizations to electioneer would result in organizations diverting resources that were solicited and exempted from tax under the assumption of “public benefit” to directly impact the results of an election.
- Organizations That Want to Electioneer Already Have a Way of Doing So: Nonprofit entities are free to form as a 501(c)(4) organization if they want to specifically participate in or intervene in a campaign.
- Nonprofits Will be Politicized: If the prohibition were relaxed, 501(c)(3) organizations would be opened up to potential political pressure to support or oppose specific candidates as a quid pro quo for government funding or other support; or, to more subtle pressure or retaliation against previous political positions.
- It Will Spiral Out of Control — Fast: Practically speaking, if section 501(c)(3) organizations were allowed to electioneer, 501(c)(3) organizations would be created and managed for the express purpose of influencing elections.
Read the full article about repealing the Johnson Amendment by Anne Wallestad at BoardSource.