June 22, 2010; Source: Nonprofit Law Prof Blog | A Loyola-Chicago legal scholar is calling for a rethinking of the restrictions on 501(c)(3) charities engaging in electioneering activity. His argument is that the current debate is not especially helpful as it is keyed to what is or isn’t allowed for 501(c)(3)s and what the IRS should or shouldn’t impose as penalties on nonprofit violators.
Many nonprofits, he contends, routinely flout the electioneering prohibition. The problem is that by arguing the issue through the (c)(3) structure, we’re not examining the more fundamental question of whether or not having charities engaged in partisan political activities is worthwhile.
By lodging this discussion in IRS rules and the tenuous relationship of political free speech to charitable tax laws, the nation relegates the issues of “how public charities would use their political voices, and whether such uses would have positive or negative effects on society, . . . to secondary status.”—Rick Cohen