As we noted in our February e-Newsletter, the US House of Representatives and US Senate have introduced legislation to repeal the ban on partisan activity by 501(c)(3) nonprofits. This legislation would, in effect, allow 501(c)(3) nonprofits to become political organizations, which would turn nonprofits into political operatives. We think that nonprofits do their best work because they are nonpartisan and repealing this requirement is a threat to our work and our sector.
Nonpartisanship is a cornerstone principle that has strengthened the public's trust of the nonprofit sector. Yet the longstanding legal protection (known as the 'Johnson Amendment') - which allows 501(c)(3) nonprofits to speak out on issues of the day and advocate on legislation, but keeps us away from the divisiveness of supporting or opposing candidates for office - is under imminent threat. In recent weeks, the President vowed to "get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment," the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee said he intends to repeal the law as part of comprehensive tax reform, and the House Majority Whip is a lead sponsor of one of the bills to weaken the protection. That legislation ( H.R.781; S.264) would blur the current clear language that conditions tax-exempt status and the ability to receive tax-deductible donations in part on not engaging in partisan, election-related activities for or against candidates for public office.
Nonprofits are safe spaces in our communities, designed to be above the political fray. Being nonpartisan allows us to focus on solving problems, helping our neighbors, and enriching our communities. Nonpartisan credibility is critical to the ability of 501(c)(3) organizations to work with elected officials of all parties at the local, state, and federal levels to address community needs. Keeping this protection in place is essential to nonprofit missions.
NPCC has proudly signed, together with the National Council of Nonprofits, our nationwide network, and nonprofits and foundations from across the country, a special joint Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship . We urge your organization to join us in signing on and sharing the letter broadly with your board members, your colleagues at other organizations, and others in your networks so they can join in this vital effort to preserve the protections in current law. Together, we can protect nonprofit missions from the rancor of partisan politics.