Sen. Wyden Responds to Johnson Amendment
The Nonprofit Association of Oregon supports Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) in his call to not politicize nonprofits and keep dark money out of the important work of nonprofits. Senator Wyden’s letter to legislative leadership is in response to President Trump’s stated intention to "get rid of and totally destroy" the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment is a federal tax law provision that makes tax-exempt entities like churches and charitable organizations under the 501(c)3 status unable to directly or indirectly participate in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate or to collect funds for political campaigns.
NAO commends Senator Wyden on his leadership and urge all nonprofits to support his stance. Be sure that your representatives understand your position on this important issue!
May 03, 2017
Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, Chairman Hatch, Chairman Johnson, Chairman Brady, and Chairman Chaffetz:
We write today to strongly urge that you not act to politicize our nation’s charities in tax reform or any other legislation. In recent weeks our offices have received requests from nearly 4,500 charitable organizations including 100 faith groups expressing their strong opposition to any proposal that would politicize and undermine the charitable, nonprofit, and philanthropic community by repealing or weakening current protections in federal law that prohibit charitable organizations from endorsing, opposing, or contributing to political campaigns. This letter seeks to echo and amplify these requests from our nation’s charities.
Nonpartisanship is the cornerstone of Americans’ trust in the charitable sector. For more than 60 years the rules prohibiting political activity by charities have guaranteed the public that their valuable charitable donations will be used for social good, not political electioneering. Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, ministering to the spirit, and other critical community services provided by the charitable sector are not partisan issues. However, if even a few charitable organizations violate this principle, it would undermine the credibility of our food banks, homeless shelters, religious institutions, and other critical charitable organizations in our communities. Moreover, a repeal of these safeguards would force legitimate charities to compete with special interest political groups for limited charitable donations.
America’s charities also serve as partners to federal and state governments, efficiently delivering social services to communities via competitive grants. According to the most recent data, charities receive approximately $137 billion annually from government agencies to help fund their important missions. The prohibition against political campaign activity by charities ensures grant recipients are free from political conflicts of interest. These grant programs and the services provided by charitable organizations in our communities are too important to risk by subjecting them to partisan campaign politics.
Proposals to weaken the prohibition on political campaign activity by charities will effectively lead to the elimination of our nation’s campaign finance laws. Using charitable causes as shell companies to evade campaign finance transparency and contribution limits would increase the flow of dark money in politics. At the same time, it would force taxpayers to foot the bill for special interests. Hardworking Americans simply should not be required to subsidize the political spending for our country’s powerful few.
As Congress looks toward tax reform and other legislation this year, we hope you will keep in mind the credibility and independence of the charities that serve our communities. As such, we strongly request you not act to undermine that independence or the critical programs these charities provide.