Proposed Legislation Would Allow Limited Political Campaign Activity for Charitable Organizations
Recently, we wrote about the absolute prohibition on political campaign activity by 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, and the importance of managing the use of social media to avoid violating these rules. This prohibition has gained national attention during the 2016 election cycle, with Donald Trump vowing to repeal the “Johnson Amendment,” so named because then-senator Lyndon B. Johnson added the prohibition to the Revenue Act of 1954 (the precursor to today’s tax code) from the Senate Floor. Now two members of the House of Representatives, Steve Scalise R-LA and Jody Hice R-GA, have sponsored H.R. 6195, which would amend the Internal Revenue Code to relax the absolute prohibition on political speech for all Section 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches and other charitable non-profits, allowing such organizations to make political statements as long as they are made in the ordinary course of an organization’s regular and customary activities, and expenditures relating to such statements are de minimis and incremental. The bill would, presumably, allow clergy to speak about political candidates from the pulpit, and other non-profit leaders to speak about candidates in the context of their charities’ ongoing work in public forums, through social media and on an organization’s web site. It remains to be seen whether this bill will gain traction in the House or the Senate.