Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


"Illegal Political Activity"

handcuffs.jpgSomething is seriously wrong when the New York Times has an article “I.R.S. Finds Sharp Increase in Illegal Political Activity,” and fails to mention the free speech issues associated with the claptrap coming out of Congress:

While pointing out the extent of the problem, the agency published more guidance for nonprofit organizations, including examples of what is permissible and what is not. Mr. Everson warned that the agency would be more aggressive in addressing illegal political activity as election campaigns moved into full swing.

I don’t need guidance about what is permissible if I have freedom.

3 comments on ""Illegal Political Activity""

  • Chandler says:

    I don’t need guidance about what is permissible if I have freedom.

    Yes, but you do need guidance if you don’t want to suddently discover that you now need to pay taxes on your organization’s donations and that you’re no longer a tax-deductible donation.
    The spirit of the rule (churches may take positions on issues, but not candidates) seems reasonable for tax-exempt institutions like churches. So long as that is the case, some mechanism must exist for defining what the boundaries of “religious” activity.
    It would make a lot more sense to end the numerous exemptions reserved for churches and go on. Let them pay taxes, comply with zoning, parking, noise and other local ordinances and generally be required to follow the same laws as the rest of us, then they wouldn’t need to worry about whether or not their speech was tax-exempt or not.

  • C’mon, Adam. It’s pretty clear that the IRS is not concerned wtih speech. It is concerned with groups that have decided to tkae advantage of tax policy by declaring themselves exempt from certain taxes, and allowing others to donate to them for an exemption. This policy of exemption is designed to foster civic society, not to channel money into the political process, which is typically seen as seperate from the civic society.
    You have freedom; should you choose to declare yourself a certain type of non-profit you voluntarily relinquish your ability to participate in one type of debate (political campaigning) in exchange for a better position in others (lobbying, expertise and advocacy, issue advertising, etc).

  • Adam says:

    Hi Chandler, Allan,
    The trouble is the lines drawn require hair-splitting. It’s ok to say “Candidate X scores a 95 on our abusing bunnies scale,” but not “vote for candidate X.” So Allan’s thought that there are “types” of debate seems hard to maintain.
    I’m in favor of the robust debate that we get from everyone debating, not everyone asking if they can make the first statement, not the second.

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