Congress Mulls 501(c)(3) Political Campaign Expansion
Since 1954, organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code have been required to limit their political involvement to non-partisan voter education and registration drives. These organizations are currently prohibited from endorsing a candidate or issue. Violating this restriction could jeopardize the charity’s tax-exempt status.
However, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) recently introduced a bill (H.R. 6195) to allow 501(c)(3) organizations to participate in political campaigns as long as it is in the ordinary course of the organization’s exempt purpose and incurs de minimis expenses. This bill would allow 501(c)(3) organizations an opportunity to publically express support or opposition for issues that run parallel with its mission.
The effects of this bill could be interesting. It may bring new voices to the political arena that could sway the public and pressure candidates. While it is worth noting that this bill only allows de minimis expenses to be incurred, many imaginative groups may quickly realize reaching a large audience may not incur any new expenses at all. For instance, political messages concurrent with a presenter’s lecture or banners on a website may incur no additional cost. However, 501(c)(3) organizations are still prohibited from making campaign contributions. We will update you on the progress of this bill in the future, but please contact us with any questions you may have.