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Is the Ban on Participation in Political Campaigns by Charities Essential to Their Vitality and Democracy? A Reply to Professor Tobin


Johnny Rex Buckles


University of Houston Law Center


University of Richmond Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 4, 2008
U of Houston Law Center No. 2008-A-18
Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2007-23

Abstract:     
Religious and other charitable organizations are described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code only if they do not participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office. A charity that engages in such political campaign activity forfeits its federal income tax exemption and its ability to receive donations that are deductible by donors in computing their federal taxable income. The two-fold penalty effectively prohibits many charities from supporting or opposing political candidates. In a recent article, Professor Donald Tobin argues in favor of this effective ban by asserting that removing it would threaten the American democratic system and the vitality of charitable organizations. This Paper responds to Professor Tobin's thesis. This Article explains why his arguments do not establish that the ban on political campaign participation by charitable organizations is essential (1) to protect the vitality of the charitable sector in general, and churches in particular, or (2) to maintain a properly functioning democracy in the United States. However, this Article also explains why unfettered intervention in political campaigns by charities would pose some problems. This Article concludes that some electioneering by charities is proper, and that alternatives to the ban would better address the most compelling concerns raised by Professor Tobin.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 72

Keywords: political campaigns, political activities, charitable organizations, electioneering, churches, electoral politics, tax-exempt, tax exemption, section 501(c)(3), charitable contribution, election

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Date posted: October 17, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Buckles, Johnny Rex, Is the Ban on Participation in Political Campaigns by Charities Essential to Their Vitality and Democracy? A Reply to Professor Tobin. University of Richmond Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 4, 2008; U of Houston Law Center No. 2008-A-18; Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2007-23. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1021601

Contact Information

Johnny Rex Buckles (Contact Author)
University of Houston Law Center ( email )
100 Law Center
Suite 230 BLB
Houston, TX 77204-6054
United States
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