TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TRYING TO POLITICIZE NONPROFITS

Opinion
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Donald Trump) [CC BY-SA 2.0]
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Donald Trump) [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Hilbert Morales
EL OBSERVADOR

LET’S PROTECT NONPARTISAN NONPROFITS: LET’S RETAIN THE JOHNSON AMENDMENT (enacted 1954).

“For more than 60 years, an important provision in the federal tax code has successfully protected charitable nonprofits, religious congregations, and foundations from being hounded by politicians, political operatives, and paid political consultants seeking political endorsements, financial contributions, and more.”

The Johnson Amendment provision is being threatened by President Trump, who recently vowed to “get rid of and totally destroy” the protection, and legislation in Congress seeking to completely repeal or substantially weaken it. Although couched as attempts to promote religious freedom and free speech, the legislative proposals (being proposed) would have the effect of politicizing and thereby erasing the public’s high trust in charities, houses of worship, and foundations to benefit politicians and paid political consultants.

A Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship, signed by a coalition of 501(c)(3) organizations, (nearly 4,500), from every state and every segment of the charitable and foundation communities, made a strong statement in support of nonpartisanship and urges those who have vowed to repeal or weaken this vital protection to leave existing law in place for nonprofit organizations and the people they serve.

Individuals may take action (i.e., support nonpartisanship) to help defeat efforts in Congress to repeal or weaken current protections in the law (known as the “Johnson Amendment”) by communicating directly to their U.S. Senators and Representatives. Individuals and organizations are invited to spread the word on social media as well. (Sample Tweet: #Nonprofits are effective because they focus on #CommunityNotCandidates. Maintain #JohnsonAmendment http://bit.ly/2nV6SQI ).

President Trump and some Congress members are seeking to remove the protection in federal law that keeps charitable nonprofits, including religious institutions and foundations, away from engaging in partisan, election-related activities, such as using charitable assets for political contributions and endorsing candidates for elective office (H.R. 172). Two others (S.264 and H.R. 781) would substantially weaken the law by allowing leaders of individual 501(c)(3) entities to endorse candidates for public office and engage in some partisan electioneering activities.

Any revision of the original Johnson Amendment must not be included nor allowed using riders (at Section 116) that would hinder enforcement of the Johnson Amendment.

The tax-law provision now being challenged by politicians is the final clause of Section 501(c)(3), which provides that in exchange for tax-exempt status, a charitable nonprofit, foundation, or religious organization may “not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

Regarding the proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment (enacted 1954), information can be found at <givevoice.org>.

This is what you, as a concerned individual, may do:

* Visit <givevoice.org> and sign up your nonprofit (or foundation) to protect the Johnson Amendment. The logos collected become an important graphic when CalNonprofits meets with legislators and staff.

* To really get engaged, call your Congressional reps. The number one action that gets politician’s attention are calls from their district’s constituents. Simply say: “I’m against Section 116 of the Finance Appropriations Bill and FOR THE JOHNSON AMENDMENT.”

* Meet with your Congressional representative when they are home on their August vacations. Highlight your organization and mission to them so they see who the Johnson Amendment impacts.

* Write a ‘letter to the editor’ for your home district’s newspaper. We know that all members of Congress keep an eye on what is being said about them in their home district. If you need inspiration there is a list of Op-eds on <givevoice.org>.

* Share this information with your colleagues and networks TO PROTECT NONPARTISAN NONPROFIT COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATIONS which are also non-governmental agencies.

This is one issue upon which ‘the silent majority’ must not remain silent.

Since 1954, that language has served to protect charitable nonprofits and foundations – and the donating public. It helps to ensure that organizations dedicated to the public good in communities remain above the political fray.

Our society is better today, because 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations operate as safe havens from the caustic partisanship that currently is bedeviling our country, as places where people can come together to actually solve community problems rather than just posture and remain torn apart. Repeal or revision of the law would damage the integrity and effectiveness of all charitable nonprofits and foundations.

BACKGROUND: Congress first exempted from taxation organizations operating “solely for charitable, religious, or educational purposes” in 1894. Since then, Congress has added amendments expanding the list to include several other entities that can qualify for tax exemption.

Congress also has added three major conditions: to receive the benefits of tax exemptions, those organizations cannot pay out profits (no private inurement), spend a substantial part of their activities lobbying, or engage in partisan politics (the provision at issue now). Organizations can do any of those, of course, but then they lose their tax exempt status.

Congress adopted the main part of the provision being challenged now in 1954 when Senate Minority Leader Johnson offered it as an amendment – which is why it is sometimes called “the Johnson Amendment.” Additional language was added to that provision in 1978 (the “or in opposition to” parenthetical): “does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

Everything the Trump Administration does or proposes must be monitored because Trump himself is not capable of coming up with these destructive ideas. I wonder if it is probable that the Koch Brothers and their colleagues lurk somewhere close by. After all, Trump is delivering what they have allegedly planned and proposed since their first secretive assembly of billionaires in 1975. Given the legislative gridlock at the U.S. Congress, any PUSHBACK MUST ORIGINATE WITH ‘WE, THE PEOPLE’. [Source of information used: National Council of Nonprofits, June, 2017].

NOTE TO LOW INCOME FOLKS AND PERSONS OF COLOR: Imagine Sacred Heart Community Services,  LULAC, AGIF, CET, CTC, MALDEF, USHCC, Red Cross, United Way, March of Dimes, Kiwanis, Rotary, Elks Clubs, American Cancer Society; Loaves & Fishes; Catholic Charity…all and even more, are involved dealing with issues in your community and will be impacted by these Trump Administration proposals. As STAKEHOLDER members of ‘We, The People’…tell your U.S. Congress person what this means to you…and if you do not know…make the effort to learn about it now!

Finally, consider making a $20 annual contribution to El Observador Foundation (est. 1983) which spends every penny informing this Silicon Valley Chicano-Latino-Mexican-American-Hispanic community. Information research and validation thereof takes time, talent, and MONEY! Just a little of yours would underwrite EO and EO Foundation to do much more as an independent Latino owned and operated enterprise…not beholden to anyone but you local Latinos.

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