IRS, United Church of Christ, Barack Obama
BURIEN (RLCC) — Barack Obama spoke to his church after he was an announced candidate of the Presidency. The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) has cleared the church denomination (United Church of Christ., aka, UCC) of violating 501(c)(3) guidelines. The church will not have to fight to retain its 501(c)(3) status.
501(c)(3) is nonprofit status. It means that contributors may deduct contributions from income taxes.
Nonprofit status is allowed by the federal government provided, among other things, the organization does not endorse or campaign for candidates for secular office.
What are the main steps Obama's church employ that the IRS took into consideration and used and accepted as sufficient evidence that the church did not endorse or campaign for Obama when he appeared and spoke at the UCC's biennial General Synod?
The UCC had verbally communicated to those in attendance that Sen. Obama was there as a member of the church and not as a candidate for office.
The UCC instructed those in attendance not to engage in any political campaign activities.
The UCC's legal counsel had instructed the Obama campaign that Barack Obama may not campaign in his talk.
At a similar event when he was running for President, Ronald Reagan had said in his talk to an official religious assembly that they could not endorse him but he could endorse them.
501(c)(3) organization should take steps to ensure that they are not even appearing to endorse a candidate or political party.
The RLCC never endorses or opposes any candidate or party for secular office. It never favors a candidate for public (secular) office. The RLCC always only addresses policy issues.
There are enemies of religion in general who do seek to eliminate 501(c)(3) status for all religious organizations. There are those who seek to encourage the IRS and courts to view even a candidate appearance as violating 501(c)(3) status. However, the IRS and courts so far have seen any such prohibitions as violating the candidate's free exercise.
The U.S. Constitution is a balancing act between free exercise on one hand and the state not establishing religion on the other. The supposed wall of separation is in fact a grey zone left vague intentionally for lack of an ability to do otherwise under the circumstances at the time. It's very awkward. It was devised, because so many horrendous things had been done by those who had subverted Christianity primarily. Had the religion held to the tenets of Jesus, there would be no balancing act, awkwardness, separation, or evil for that matter.
The RLCC never promotes secular voting. The Church (membership) does not choose those who hold non-spiritual, secular office. None of its members (officers or otherwise) vote for or against or endorse or campaign for or against any candidate or party for secular office. The Church does not hold with the separation of church and state. It does not hold with secular offices. Jesus was the rightful leader in all matters. God's is the rightful government. The RLCC doesn't hold with coercion. Coercion is the secular states tool. It is of the spirit of evil used against itself (fighting fire with fire). That is not the way of Jesus or our Father, God, per Jesus's own words. They do not judge or condemn any man (human). Neither can the RLCC since it is Jesus's Church.
Any comments by the RLCC are designed to make clear the message of Jesus Christ for the whole of humanity. It is not possible to speak as a Christian without overlapping societal issues (policy issues). They are inextricable.
The RLCC does not seek to intervene on behalf of any secular political candidate or party. It seeks only to promote Jesus as the shining exemplar. Jesus did not choose Caesar or the members or the Sanhedrin. He did though make absolutely clear the qualifications for leadership of the people. He did make clear that the real state is not the worldly state of the dark prince of this world. He did make clear that that real state is to come to Earth. It is that clarity the RLCC calls for, for the whole of society. It doesn't do so within the system to change the system. It stands outside the system calling souls to come out of that system to peaceably displace that system by manifesting Jesus's vision, by becoming the spirit of Jesus and God our Father incarnate, through words and deeds deriving from proper emotions/spirit.
The official IRS guidelines reproduced below are subject to change (it is dated material). Also, the courts are the final arbiters. Not all IRS guidelines have been tested in court. Many IRS guidelines ultimately do not pass muster with the court. IRS guidelines are usually a mixture of case law and IRS interpretation of tax code. Even case law is subject to being overturned. Even earlier Supreme Court decisions are subject to being overturned by subsequent SCOTUS decisions.
All of this can have a dampening effect upon speaking to the issues raised by Jesus Christ when such speech is subjected to rulings by those who do not comprehend the religion of Christianity. After all, Jesus taught his followers to pray, Thy kingdom come in Earth as it is in Heaven. That certainly means praying for the removal of the separation of real Church and real state, for they are truly one in Heaven.
For the government of the U.S. to prohibit the Church from speaking to such would be for that government to be violating its own constitution regarding the free exercise of religion.
It is my religion to speak openly about and to work to bring about Heaven conflating with Earth. Anything else is not my religion.
There is no secular in Heaven. There is no private versus public in Heaven. There is no money in Heaven. There are no taxes in Heaven. All is given freely. All is shared. All is love, peace, and beneficence only. All of that concerns policy both private and public, so-called.
Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501(c)(3) Organizations
FS-2006-17, February 2006
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is releasing this fact sheet to provide information to help section 501(c)(3) organizations stay in compliance with the federal tax law. Many of the types of political intervention activities addressed in the fact sheet were those that came under scrutiny during the 2004 election cycle. The contents reflect the IRS interpretation of tax laws enacted by Congress, Treasury regulations, and court decisions. The information is not comprehensive, however, and does not cover every situation. Thus, it is not intended to replace the law or be the sole source of information. The resolution of any particular issue may depend on the specific facts and circumstances of a given taxpayer.
With the 2006 campaign season approaching, the IRS is launching enhanced education and enforcement efforts, based on the findings and analysis of the 2004 election cycle. The IRS is providing this fact sheet to help ensure that charities have enough advance notice of the types of problems that have occurred, the legal strictures against engaging in political activities and how to avoid these problems.
The IRS considers this fact sheet a living document, one that will be revised to take into account future developments and feedback. This fact sheet is the beginning of the IRS effort to increase the educational material available to the community. The IRS encourages comments which may be submitted to the IRS at the following addresses:
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20224
Churches should also see Publication 1828, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations.
Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501(c)(3) Organizations
During election campaigns, many churches, universities, hospitals, social service providers, and other section 501(c)(3) organizations are uncertain about the extent to which they can discuss issues of importance in the campaigns or interact with candidates for public office. They are also uncertain about the role they can play in encouraging citizens to register and vote. This fact sheet is intended to help organizations understand what they can and cannot do when an election campaign is under way.
The Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to all campaigns including campaigns at the federal, state and local level. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. Those section 501(c)(3) organizations that are private foundations are subject to additional restrictions that are not described in this fact sheet.
What is Political Campaign Intervention?
Political campaign intervention includes any and all activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office. The prohibition extends beyond candidate endorsements. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention. Distributing statements prepared by others that favor or oppose any candidate for public office will also violate the prohibition. Allowing a candidate to use an organization's assets or facilities will also violate the prohibition if other candidates are not given an equivalent opportunity. Although section 501(c)(3) organizations may engage in some activities to promote voter registration, encourage voter participation, and provide voter education, they will violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention if they engage in an activity that favors or opposes any candidate for public office. Certain activities will require an evaluation of all the facts and circumstances to determine whether they result in political campaign intervention.
Voter Education, Voter Registration and Get Out the Vote Drives
Section 501(c)(3) organizations are permitted to conduct certain voter education activities (including the presentation of public forums and the publication of voter education guides) if they are carried out in a non-partisan manner. In addition, section 501(c)(3) organizations may encourage people to participate in the electoral process through voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, conducted in a non-partisan manner. On the other hand, voter education or registration activities conducted in a biased manner that favors (or opposes) one or more candidates is prohibited.
Example 1: B, a section 501(c)(3) organization that promotes community involvement, sets up a booth at the state fair where citizens can register to vote. The signs and banners in and around the booth give only the name of the organization, the date of the next upcoming statewide election, and notice of the opportunity to register. No reference to any candidate or political party is made by the volunteers staffing the booth or in the materials available at the booth, other than the official voter registration forms which allow registrants to select a party affiliation. B is not engaged in political campaign intervention when it operates this voter registration booth.
Example 2: C is a section 501(c)(3) organization that educates the public on environmental issues. Candidate G is running for the state legislature and an important element of her platform is challenging the environmental policies of the incumbent. Shortly before the election, C sets up a telephone bank to call registered voters in the district in which Candidate G is seeking election. In the phone conversations, C's representative tells the voter about the importance of environmental issues and asks questions about the voter's views on these issues. If the voter appears to agree with the incumbent's position, C's representative thanks the voter and ends the call. If the voter appears to agree with Candidate G's position, C's representative reminds the voter about the upcoming election, stresses the importance of voting in the election and offers to provide transportation to the polls. C is engaged in political campaign intervention when it conducts this get-out-the-vote drive.
Individual Activity by Organization Leaders
The political campaign intervention prohibition is not intended to restrict free expression on political matters by leaders of organizations speaking for themselves, as individuals. Nor are leaders prohibited from speaking about important issues of public policy. However, for their organizations to remain tax exempt under section 501(c)(3), leaders cannot make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official functions of the organization. To avoid potential attribution of their comments outside of organization functions and publications, organization leaders who speak or write in their individual capacity are encouraged to clearly indicate that their comments are personal and not intended to represent the views of the organization.
Example 3: President A is the Chief Executive Officer of Hospital J, a section 501(c)(3) organization, and is well known in the community. With the permission of five prominent healthcare industry leaders, including President A, who have personally endorsed Candidate T, Candidate T publishes a full page ad in the local newspaper listing the names of the five leaders. President A is identified in the ad as the CEO of Hospital J. The ad states, "Titles and affiliations of each individual are provided for identification purposes only." The ad is paid for by Candidate T's campaign committee. Because the ad was not paid for by Hospital J, the ad is not otherwise in an official publication of Hospital J, and the endorsement is made by President A in a personal capacity, the ad does not constitute campaign intervention by Hospital J.
Example 4: President B is the president of University K, a section 501(c)(3) organization. University K publishes a monthly alumni newsletter that is distributed to all alumni of the university. In each issue, President B has a column titled "My Views." The month before the election, President B states in the "My Views" column, "It is my personal opinion that Candidate U should be reelected." For that one issue, President B pays from his personal funds the portion of the cost of the newsletter attributable to the "My Views" column. Even though he paid part of the cost of the newsletter, the newsletter is an official publication of the university. Because the endorsement appeared in an official publication of University K, it constitutes campaign intervention by University K.
Example 5: Minister C is the minister of Church L, a section 501(c)(3) organization and Minister C is well known in the community. Three weeks before the election, he attends a press conference at Candidate V's campaign headquarters and states that Candidate V should be reelected. Minister C does not say he is speaking on behalf of Church L. His endorsement is reported on the front page of the local newspaper and he is identified in the article as the minister of Church L. Because Minister C did not make the endorsement at an official church function, in an official church publication or otherwise use the church's assets, and did not state that he was speaking as a representative of Church L, his actions do not constitute campaign intervention by Church L.
Example 6: Chairman D is the chairman of the Board of Directors of M, a section 501(c)(3) organization that educates the public on conservation issues. During a regular meeting of M shortly before the election, Chairman D spoke on a number of issues, including the importance of voting in the upcoming election, and concluded by stating, "It is important that you all do your duty in the election and vote for Candidate W." Because Chairman D's remarks indicating support for Candidate W were made during an official organization meeting, they constitute political campaign intervention by M.
Depending on the facts and circumstances, an organization may invite political candidates to speak at its events without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status. Political candidates may be invited in their capacity as candidates, or in their individual capacity (not as a candidate). Candidates may also appear without an invitation at organization events that are open to the public.
A candidate may seek to reassure the organization that it is permissible for the organization to do certain things in connection with the candidate's appearance. An organization in this position should keep in mind that the candidate may not be familiar with the organization's tax-exempt status and that the candidate may be focused on compliance with the election laws that apply to the candidate's campaign rather than the federal tax law that applies to the organization. The organization will be in the best position to ensure compliance with the prohibition on political campaign intervention if it makes its own independent conclusion about its compliance with federal tax law.
Speaking as a Candidate
When a candidate is invited to speak at an organization event as a political candidate, the organization must take steps to ensure that:
o It provides an equal opportunity to political candidates seeking the same office;
o It does not indicate any support for or opposition to the candidate (this should be stated explicitly when the candidate is introduced and in communications concerning the candidate's attendance); and
o No political fundraising occurs.
Equal Opportunity to Participate
In determining whether candidates are given an equal opportunity to participate, an organization should consider the nature of the event to which each candidate is invited, in addition to the manner of presentation.
For example, an organization that invites one candidate to speak at its well attended annual banquet, but invites the opposing candidate to speak at a sparsely attended general meeting, will likely have violated the political campaign prohibition, even if the manner of presentation for both speakers is otherwise neutral.
Sometimes an organization invites several candidates for the same office to speak at a public forum. A public forum involving several candidates for public office may qualify as an exempt educational activity. However, if the forum is operated to show a bias for or against any candidate, then the forum would be political campaign intervention.
When an organization invites several candidates for the same office to speak at a forum, it should consider the following factors:
o Whether questions for the candidate are prepared and presented by an independent nonpartisan panel,
o Whether the topics discussed by the candidates cover a broad range of issues that the candidates would address if elected to the office sought and are of interest to the public,
o Whether each candidate is given an equal opportunity to present his or her view on the issues discussed,
o Whether the candidates are asked to agree or disagree with positions, agendas, platforms or statements of the organization, and
o Whether a moderator comments on the questions or otherwise implies approval or disapproval of the candidates.
Example 7: President E is the president of Society N, a historical society that is a section 501(c)(3) organization. In the month prior to the election, President E invites the three Congressional candidates for the district in which Society N is located to address the members, one each at a regular meeting held on three successive weeks. Each candidate is given an equal opportunity to address and field questions on a wide variety of topics from the members. Society N's publicity announcing the dates for each of the candidate's speeches and President E's introduction of each candidate include no comments on their qualifications or any indication of a preference for any candidate. Society N's actions do not constitute political campaign intervention.
Example 8: The facts are the same as in Example 7 except that there are four candidates in the race rather than three, and one of the candidates declines the invitation to speak. In the publicity announcing the dates for each of the candidate's speeches, Society N includes a statement that the order of the speakers was determined at random and the fourth candidate declined the Society's invitation to speak. President E makes the same statement in his opening remarks at each of the meetings where one of the candidates is speaking. Society N's actions do not constitute political campaign intervention.
Example 9: Minister F is the minister of Church O, a section 501(c)(3) organization. The Sunday before the November election, Minister F invites Senate Candidate X to preach to her congregation during worship services. During his remarks, Candidate X states, "I am asking not only for your votes, but for your enthusiasm and dedication, for your willingness to go the extra mile to get a very large turnout on Tuesday." Minister F invites no other candidate to address her congregation during the Senatorial campaign. Because these activities take place during official church services, they are attributed to Church O. By selectively providing church facilities to allow Candidate X to speak in support of his campaign, Church O's actions constitute political campaign intervention.
Speaking or Participating as a Non-Candidate
Candidates may also appear or speak at organization events in a non-candidate capacity. For instance, a political candidate may be a public figure who is invited to speak because he or she: (a) currently holds, or formerly held, public office; (b) is considered an expert in a non political field; or (c) is a celebrity or has led a distinguished military, legal, or public service career. A candidate may choose to attend an event that is open to the public, such as a lecture, concert or worship service. The candidate's presence at an organization-sponsored event does not, by itself, cause the organization to be engaged in political campaign intervention. However, if the candidate is publicly recognized by the organization, or if the candidate is invited to speak, the organization must ensure that:
o The individual is chosen to speak solely for reasons other than candidacy for public office;
o The individual speaks only in a non-candidate capacity;
o Neither the individual nor any representative of the organization makes any mention of his or her candidacy or the election;
o No campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate's attendance; and
o The organization maintains a nonpartisan atmosphere on the premises or at the event where the candidate is present.
In addition, the organization should clearly indicate the capacity in which the candidate is appearing and should not mention the individual's political candidacy or the upcoming election in the communications announcing the candidate's attendance at the event.
Example 10: Historical society P is a section 501(c)(3) organization. Society P is located in the state capital. President G is the president of Society P and customarily acknowledges the presence of any public officials present during meetings. During the state gubernatorial race, Lieutenant Governor Y, a candidate, attends a meeting of the historical society. President G acknowledges the Lieutenant Governor's presence in his customary manner, saying, "We are happy to have joining us this evening Lieutenant Governor Y." President G makes no reference in his welcome to the Lieutenant Governor's candidacy or the election. Society P has not engaged in political campaign intervention as a result of President G's actions.
Example 11: Chairman H is the chairman of the Board of Hospital Q, a section 501(c)(3) organization. Hospital Q is building a new wing. Chairman H invites Congressman Z, the representative for the district containing Hospital Q, to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the new wing. Congressman Z is running for reelection at the time. Chairman H makes no reference in her introduction to Congressman Z's candidacy or the election. Congressman Z also makes no reference to his candidacy or the election and does not do any fundraising while at Hospital Q. Hospital Q has not intervened in a political campaign.
Example 12: University X is a section 501(c)(3) organization. X publishes an alumni newsletter on a regular basis. Individual alumni are invited to send in updates about themselves which are printed in each edition of the newsletter. After receiving an update letter from Alumnus Q, X prints the following: "Alumnus Q, class of 'XX is running for mayor of Metropolis." The newsletter does not contain any reference to this election or to Alumnus Q's candidacy other than this statement of fact. University X has not intervened in a political campaign.
Example 13: Mayor G attends a concert performed by Symphony S, a section 501(c)(3) organization, in City Park. The concert is free and open to the public. Mayor G is a candidate for reelection, and the concert takes place after the primary and before the general election. During the concert, the chairman of S's board addresses the crowd and says, "I am pleased to see Mayor G here tonight. Without his support, these free concerts in City Park would not be possible. We will need his help if we want these concerts to continue next year so please support Mayor G in November as he has supported us." As a result of these remarks, Symphony S has engaged in political campaign intervention.
Issue Advocacy vs. Political Campaign Intervention
Under federal tax law, section 501(c)(3) organizations may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office. However, section 501(c)(3) organizations must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political campaign intervention. Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate, an organization delivering the statement is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate. A statement can identify a candidate not only by stating the candidate's name but also by other means such as showing a picture of the candidate, referring to political party affiliations, or other distinctive features of a candidate's platform or biography. All the facts and circumstances need to be considered to determine if the advocacy is political campaign intervention.
Key factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:
o Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office;
o Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval for one or more candidates' positions and/or actions;
o Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election;
o Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election;
o Whether the issue addressed in the communication has been raised as an issue distinguishing candidates for a given office;
o Whether the communication is part of an ongoing series of communications by the organization on the same issue that are made independent of the timing of any election; and
o Whether the timing of the communication and identification of the candidate are related to a non-electoral event such as a scheduled vote on specific legislation by an officeholder who also happens to be a candidate for public office.
A communication is particularly at risk of political campaign intervention when it makes reference to candidates or voting in a specific upcoming election. Nevertheless, the communication must still be considered in context before arriving at any conclusions.
Example 14: University O, a section 501(c)(3) organization, prepares and finances a full page newspaper advertisement that is published in several large circulation newspapers in State V shortly before an election in which Senator C is a candidate for nomination in a party primary. Senator C represents State V in the United States Senate. The advertisement states that S. 24, a pending bill in the United States Senate, would provide additional opportunities for State V residents to attend college, but Senator C has opposed similar measures in the past. The advertisement ends with the statement "Call or write Senator C to tell him to vote for S. 24." Educational issues have not been raised as an issue distinguishing Senator C from any opponent. S. 24 is scheduled for a vote in the United States Senate before the election, soon after the date that the advertisement is published in the newspapers. Even though the advertisement appears shortly before the election and identifies Senator C's position on the issue as contrary to O's position, University O has not violated the political campaign intervention prohibition because the advertisement does not mention the election or the candidacy of Senator C, education issues have not been raised as distinguishing Senator C from any opponent, and the timing of the advertisement and the identification of Senator C are directly related to the specifically identified legislation University O is supporting and appears immediately before the United States Senate is scheduled to vote on that particular legislation. The candidate identified, Senator C, is an officeholder who is in a position to vote on the legislation.
Example 15: Organization R, a section 501(c)(3) organization that educates the public about the need for improved public education, prepares and finances a radio advertisement urging an increase in state funding for public education in State X, which requires a legislative appropriation. Governor E is the governor of State X. The radio advertisement is first broadcast on several radio stations in State X beginning shortly before an election in which Governor E is a candidate for re election. The advertisement is not part of an ongoing series of substantially similar advocacy communications by Organization R on the same issue. The advertisement cites numerous statistics indicating that public education in State X is under funded. While the advertisement does not say anything about Governor E's position on funding for public education, it ends with "Tell Governor E what you think about our under-funded schools." In public appearances and campaign literature, Governor E's opponent has made funding of public education an issue in the campaign by focusing on Governor E's veto of an income tax increase the previous year to increase funding of public education. At the time the advertisement is broadcast, no legislative vote or other major legislative activity is scheduled in the State X legislature on state funding of public education. Organization R has violated the political campaign prohibition because the advertisement identifies Governor E, appears shortly before an election in which Governor E is a candidate, is not part of an ongoing series of substantially similar advocacy communications by Organization R on the same issue, is not timed to coincide with a non election event such as a legislative vote or other major legislative action on that issue, and takes a position on an issue that the opponent has used to distinguish himself from Governor E.
Example 16: Candidate A and Candidate B are candidates for the state senate in District W of State X. The issue of State X funding for a new mass transit project in District W is a prominent issue in the campaign. Both candidates have spoken out on the issue. Candidate A supports for the new mass transit project. Candidate B opposes the project and supports State X funding for highway improvements instead. P is the executive director of C, a section 501(c)(3) organization that promotes community development in District W. At C's annual fundraising dinner in District W, which takes place in the month before the election in State X, P gives a lengthy speech about community development issues including the transportation issues. P does not mention the name of any candidate or any political party. However, at the conclusion of the speech, P makes the following statement, "For those of you who care about quality of life in District W and the growing traffic congestion, there is a very important choice coming up next month. We need new mass transit. More highway funding will not make a difference. You have the power to relieve the congestion and improve your quality of life in District W. Use that power when you go to the polls and cast your vote in the election for your state senator." C has violated the political campaign intervention as a result of P's remarks at C's official function shortly before the election, in which P referred to the upcoming election after stating a position on an issue that is a prominent issue in a campaign that distinguishes the candidates.
Voter guides are usually pamphlets or other short documents, often in chart form, intended to help voters compare candidates' positions on a set of issues. Preparing or distributing a voter guide may violate the prohibition against political campaign intervention if the guide focuses on a single issue or narrow range of issues, or if the questions are structured to reflect bias. Although any document that identifies candidates and their positions close in time to an election has the potential to result in political campaign intervention, preparation or distribution of voter guides, because of their nature, present a particular risk for non compliance. The following factors are key considerations in whether a voter guide can be distributed to educate voters without violating the prohibition on political campaign intervention.
o Whether the questions and any other description of the issues are clear and unbiased in both their structure and content.
o Whether the questions posed provided to the candidates are identical to those included in the voter guide.
o Whether the candidates are given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the questions. If the candidate is given limited choices for an answer to a question (e.g. yes/no, support/oppose), whether the candidate is also given a reasonable opportunity to explain his position in his own words and that explanation is included in the voter guide.
o Whether the answers in the voter guide are those provided by the candidates in response to the questions, including whether the candidate's answers are unedited, and whether they appear in close proximity to the question to which they respond.
o Whether all candidates for a particular office are covered.
o Whether the number of questions, and the subjects covered, are sufficient to encompass most major issues of interest to the entire electorate.
In assessing whether a voter guide is unbiased and nonpartisan, every aspect of the voter guide's format, content and distribution must be taken into consideration. If the organization's position on one or more issues is set out in the guide so that it can be compared to the candidates' positions, the guide will constitute political campaign intervention.
An organization may be asked to distribute voter guides prepared by a third party. Each organization that distributes one or more voter guides is responsible for its own actions. If the voter guide is biased, distribution of the voter guide is an act of political campaign intervention. Therefore, an organization should reach its own independent conclusion about whether a voter guide prepared by itself or prepared by a third party covers a broad scope of issues and uses neutral form and content.
The question of whether an activity constitutes participation or intervention in a political campaign may also arise in the context of a business activity of the organization, such as selling or renting of mailing lists, the leasing of office space, or the acceptance of paid political advertising. In this context, some of the factors to be considered in determining whether the organization has engaged in political campaign intervention include the following:
o Whether the good, service or facility is available to candidates in the same election on an equal basis,
o Whether the good, service, or facility is available only to candidates and not to the general public,
o Whether the fees charged to candidates are at the organization's customary and usual rates, and
o Whether the activity is an ongoing activity of the organization or whether it is conducted only for a particular candidate.
Example 17: Museum K is a section 501(c)(3) organization. It owns an historic building that has a large hall suitable for hosting dinners and receptions. For several years, Museum K has made the hall available for rent to members of the public. Standard fees are set for renting the hall based on the number of people in attendance, and a number of different organizations have rented the hall. Museum K rents the hall on a first come, first served basis. Candidate P rents Museum K's social hall for a fundraising dinner. Candidate P's campaign pays the standard fee for the dinner. Museum K is not involved in political campaign intervention as a result of renting the hall to Candidate P for use as the site of a campaign fundraising dinner.
Example 18: Theater L is a section 501(c)(3) organization. It maintains a mailing list of all of its subscribers and contributors. Theater L has never rented its mailing list to a third party. Theater L is approached by the campaign committee of Candidate Q, who supports increased funding for the arts. Candidate Q's campaign committee offers to rent Theater L's mailing list for a fee that is comparable to fees charged by other similar organizations. Theater L rents its mailing list to Candidate Q's campaign committee. Theater L declines similar requests from campaign committees of other candidates. Theater L has intervened in a political campaign.
The Internet has become a widely used communications tool. Section 501(c)(3) organizations use their own web sites to disseminate statements and information. They also routinely link their web sites to web sites maintained by other organizations as a way of providing additional information that the organizations believe is useful or relevant to the public.
A web site is a form of communication. If an organization posts something on its web site that favors or opposes a candidate for public office, the organization will be treated the same as if it distributed printed material, oral statements or broadcasts that favored or opposed a candidate.
An organization has control over whether it establishes a link to another site. When an organization establishes a link to another web site, the organization is responsible for the consequences of establishing and maintaining that link, even if the organization does not have control over the content of the linked site. Because the linked content may change over time, an organization may reduce the risk of political campaign intervention by monitoring the linked content and adjusting the links accordingly.
Links to candidate-related material, by themselves, do not necessarily constitute political campaign intervention. The IRS will take all the facts and circumstances into account when assessing whether a link produces that result. The facts and circumstances to be considered include, but are not limited to, the context for the link on the organization's web site, whether all candidates are represented, any exempt purpose served by offering the link, and the directness of the links between the organization's web site and the web page that contains material favoring or opposing a candidate for public office.
Example 19: M, a section 501(c)(3) organization, maintains a web site and posts an unbiased, nonpartisan voter guide that is prepared consistent with the principles discussed in the voter guide section above. For each candidate covered in the voter guide, M includes a link to that candidate's official campaign web site. The links to the candidate web sites are presented on a consistent neutral basis for each candidate, with text saying "For more information on Candidate X, you may consult [URL]." M has not intervened in a political campaign because the links are provided for the exempt purpose of educating voters and are presented in a neutral, unbiased manner that includes all candidates for a particular office.
Example 20: Hospital N, a section 501(c)(3) organization, maintains a web site that includes such information as medical staff listings, directions to Hospital N, and descriptions of its specialty health programs, major research projects, and other community outreach programs. On one page of the web site, Hospital N describes its treatment program for a particular disease. At the end of the page, it includes a section of links to other web sites titled "More Information." These links include links to other hospitals that have treatment programs for this disease, research organizations seeking cures for that disease, and articles about treatment programs. This section includes a link to an article on the web site of O, a major national newspaper, praising Hospital N's treatment program for the disease. The page containing the article on O's web site contains no reference to any candidate or election and has no direct links to candidate or election information. Elsewhere on O's web site, there is a page displaying editorials that O has published. Several of the editorials endorse candidates in an election that has not yet occurred. Hospital N has not intervened in a political campaign by maintaining the link to the article on O's web site because the link is provided for the exempt purpose of educating the public about Hospital N's programs and neither the context for the link, nor the relationship between Hospital N and O nor the arrangement of the links going from Hospital N's web site to the endorsement on O's web site indicate that Hospital N was favoring or opposing any candidate.
Example 21: Church P, a section 501(c)(3) organization, maintains a web site that includes such information as biographies of its ministers, times of services, details of community outreach programs, and activities of members of its congregation. B, a member of the congregation of Church P, is running for a seat on the town council. Shortly before the election, Church P posts the following message on its web site, "Lend your support to B, your fellow parishioner, in Tuesday's election for town council." Church P has intervened in a political campaign on behalf of B.
Effect of Conducting Multiple Activities
Although each of the activities described in this fact sheet is described separately, an organization might combine one or more of the types of activity described above. For example, an organization leader may speak about an issue at an event where a candidate appears, or a voter guide might be distributed at a candidate forum. Where there is a combination of activities, the interaction among them may affect whether or not the organization is engaged in political campaign intervention.
- IRS Releases New Guidance and Results of Political Intervention Examinations