The New York Times has a good article about how 501(c)4 organizations are increasingly being utilized to influence elections by donors who appreciate that they
The New York Times has a good article about how 501(c)4 organizations are increasingly being utilized to influence elections by donors who appreciate that they are exempt from disclosure, but the piece is receiving criticism from some lawyers for perpetuating a popular misconception that could embolden some groups to jeopardize their 501(c) status.
In the article, the Times explains that “social welfare nonprofits” can advocate endlessly on behalf of issues relating to their primary purpose, but need to be careful about how much time and money they put into campaigning on behalf of specific candidates:
I.R.S. officials cautioned that what may seem like political activity to the average lay person might not be considered as such under the agency’s legal criteria.
“Federal tax law specifically distinguishes among activities to influence legislation through lobbying, to support or oppose a specific candidate for election and to do general advocacy to influence public opinion on issues,” said Sarah Hall Ingram, commissioner of the I.R.S. division that oversees nonprofits. As a result, rarely do advertisements by 501(c)(4) groups explicitly call for the election or defeat of candidates. Instead, they typically attack their positions on issues.
But federal tax law, some lawyers note, is not so narrow as to isolate communications that constitute “express advocacy” — i.e. calls to vote for the election or defeat of candidates or the functional equivalent thereof — as the only form of activity that might be treated as an effort to influence an election. Instead, the IRS is supposed to consider a number of “facts and circumstances” surrounding a group’s activities in determining whether it has engaged in electioneering.
For example, attacking a candidate on an issue that is not up for an imminent vote in Congress, yet the ad occurs just prior to a federal election, could quite easily suggest to the IRS an effort to influence an election. On the other hand, attacking a candidate on an issue that is up for a vote, or on a topic about which a group has a long and steady track record of advocating (even in non-electoral situations), would suggest the effort is a form of lobbying.
The Times’ article notes rightly that the IRS isn’t really properly equipped or especially eager to engage in this kind of oversight, so the distinction might be somewhat moot. But if 501(c)4 groups start interpreting their leeway to influence elections as being free to do anything short of express advocacy on behalf of candidates, they just might find themselves to be in violation of federal tax law.
Rep. Patrick McHenry: Please, Conservatives, Fill Out Your Census Forms!
The conservative congressman from North Carolina, a constant critic of the census -- one of the people who sounded the alarm about politicization when the
Rep. Paulsen allies with medical device industry to relax FDA oversight
Source: Flickr; Republicanconference (www.flickr.com/photos/republicanconference) On the heels of the Minnesota Independent story last week about U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen’s cozy financial relationship with the medical device industry, the New York Times reported Tuesday that some health professionals are alarmed by Paulsen’s push to relax Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight
Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.)
One of the most conservative Democrats in the House -- a freshman who said he couldn’t support Nancy Pelosi again -- is going to switch over to the GOP. Josh
Rep. Paulsen touts balanced budget constitutional amendment
In a post for the conservative blog True North , U.S. Rep
Rep. Paulsen, Karl Rove the latest to get ‘glittered’
Rep. Erik Paulsen and former Bush staffer Karl Rove were both showered with glitter at the Midwest Leadership Conference Friday
Rep. Paul Ryan to deliver SOTU response
Chairman of the House Budget Committee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union Tuesday, according to Mike Allen
Rep. Perlmutter criticizes House measure that would eliminate 800K federal jobs
Congressman Ed Perlmutter today issued a scathing statement criticizing the House of Representatives for passing a spending bill that could put nearly a million federal employees out of work. The Colorado delegation voted strictly on party lines, with all four Republicans voting in favor of the bill and the three Democrats voting in opposition. Perlmutter’s statement: “My number one priority is to get people back to work because that’s the best thing we can do to pay our debt and move forward toward economic stability
Rep. Perlmutter to hold constituent meet-up in grocery store
Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter will hold a Government in the Grocery constituent meet-up this evening from 5-7 at the Safeway at 38th and Wadsworth in Wheat Ridge. The address is 3900 Wadsworth. The meeting, where Perlmutter typically sits at a folding table and talks to whomever shows up, is free and open to the public
Rep. Peace, ACLU seek investigation of soldier’s allegations of racial discrimination in Afghanistan
Both Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) and the American Civil Liberties Union agree: There needs to be an investigation into Spc.
School of Hock
A growing number of college grads are defaulting on their student loans as the economy worsens.