Election Rules for Nonprofits

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Election Rules for Nonprofits

NAKASEC Web Training
December 13, 2007

General Rule for 501(c)(3)s:

No candidate support or opposition

Who is a Candidate?

Officially running

Considering running

Draft efforts
For any public office

What is the penalty?

Denial or revocation of taxexempt status, and The imposition of excise taxes

Is the activity nonpartisan?

FACTS & CIRCUMSTANCES TEST

What can a 501(c)(3) do?

Permissible 501(c)(3) Election Activity Issue advocacy Voter registration & GOTV Voter education Candidate education Individual Activity

What can a 501(c)(3) do?

Permissible 501(c)(3) Election Activity Issue advocacy Voter registration & GOTV Voter education Candidate education Individual Activity

Permissible Voter Registration & GOTV
501(c)(3)’s

No reference to any candidate or political party

No suggestion who to vote for

Must make services available to everyone

Targeting Voter Registration & GOTV
501(c)(3)’s

Target for nonpartisan purpose

Location

Audience

Targeting Voter Registration & GOTV

Messages cannot suggest a “correct position”

Vote green. Register here. You can have an impact on the decisions affecting your life. Register to vote now. Let’s get out the pro-choice vote. Register here.

Targeting Voter Registration & GOTV

Over 170,000 Latinos fought in Vietnam. Today over 5,000,000 Latinos are not registered to vote. THEY SAY WE DON'T VOTE. What do you say? DICEN QUE LOS LATINOS NO VOTAN. ¿Que dices tú?

What can a 501(c)(3) do?

Permissible 501(c)(3) Election Activity Issue advocacy Voter registration & GOTV Voter education Candidate education Individual Activity

Candidate Questionnaires & Voter Guides
Tips No pledges Broad range of issues Distribute to all Unbiased questions No editing

Candidate Debates & Forums

Tips Invite all viable candidates Apply the rules fairly Impartial moderator Unbiased audience Broad range of issues Unbiased questions

Candidate Appearances

Invite because of candidacy Invite for another reason
Equal opportunity required No contextual favoritism Invite viable candidates No equal opportunity required Avoid mentioning candidacy Don’t time to coincide with election Disclaimers and letter

Legislative Scorecard or Voting Record
Not timed to coincide with an election Includes all legislators Broad range of issues Commentary allowed Exculpatory Language No reference to who is incumbent Party Identification OK

What can a 501(c)(3) do?

Permissible 501(c)(3) Election Activity Issue advocacy Voter registration & GOTV Voter education Candidate education Individual Activity

Candidate Education

Permissible 501(c)(3) Election Activity Offer to all

Use only what is already gathered

Criticizing Incumbents

Permissible 501(c)(3) Election Activity Continue ongoing criticism Focus on the legislative issues

Individual Activity

Just Do It!

Okay if acting in their own capacity Not on company time Organization cannot ratify the individual’s acts expressly or by implication

Business Dealings

Business Dealings

Mailing Lists

Office Space

Ads

Political Activity Spectrum

501(c)(3) Activity

Purely Nonpartisan Activity

Supporting or Opposing a Candidate

Express Advocacy

Contributions to Candidates

General rule for 501(c)(4)s You can do everything a 501(c)(3) can do

PLUS some Partisan Political Activity

Federal Law

501(c)(4)s

Internal Revenue Code

Federal Election Law

What can a 501(c)(4) do?
Partisan electoral work Cannot be primary activity Tax consequences Same standards to determine whether the activity is nonpartisan File IRS Form 1120-POL Federal or state election laws

Nonpartisan election-related activity Same activity as 501(c)(3)s

What is partisan activity?
501(c)(4) Partisan electoral work Endorsements Contributions Statements of support or opposition Pledges Work with 527s
5 f 7( 2 tax )

State vs. Federal Election Law
State Law Ballot measure activity Contributions Coordination Electioneering communications Federal Law No regulation of ballot measures No contributions No coordination No electioneering communications

Political Activity Spectrum

501(c)(3) Activity 501(c)(4) Activity
Primary >51% Secondary <49%

Purely Nonpartisan Activity

Supporting or Opposing a Candidate

Express Advocacy

Contributions to Candidates

AFJ Services Lawyers on call: • advocacy@afj.org • 1-866-NPLOBBY (675-6229) Materials, Info & Trainings: • www.afj.org • www.allianceforjustice.org/blog

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