In Michigan, the state’s utility companies have created three 501c4 nonprofits to foster the illusion of “grassroots” support for denying homeowners the ability to sell excess power generated from solar cells on rooftops back to the electrical grid.
While both glitter in the sunlight, an assayer can easily separate fool’s gold from the real. Distinguishing genuine grassroots organizations from political front groups is not so easy. Whether this is a real concern for the larger nonprofit community is, however, a question.
In its haste to uncover the interests behind astroturf campaigns and to force disclosure on anyone who amplifies their voice with money’s assistance, government creates minefields of regulatory traps for the unwary nonprofit.
When dubious nonprofits appropriate the language of grassroots movements and coalitions, legitimate nonprofits should step up to challenge their questionable credentials. One such example is actively attacking the Dodd-Frank legislation.