On the Limits of Charity: Lobbying, Litigation, and Electoral Politics by Charitable Organizations Under the Internal Revenue Code and Related Laws
Oliver A. Houck
Tulane University - Law School
Brook Law Review, Vol. 69, No. 1, 2003
This is a history and an examination of the policies underlying the three major restrictions on political activity by public charities: lobbying, litigation and electoral politics. These restraints have been in evolution, and dispute, for nearly a century. They represent no grand plan, but, rather, a design arrived at in pieces by impulses of the moment and supported by rationales that seem increasingly thin. As the dust has settled, we have something of a hierarchy of ineffectiveness in political life, with educational activity unrestricted, litigation lightly restricted, lobbying limited in amount and manner, and campaign work permitted only, and within limits, to companion social welfare organizations. This hierarchy does not jibe easily with the high premium placed on political speech, nor the unique perspectives that chariticable organizations can bring to the marketplace. The article suggests a re-examination of the reasons for the restrictions and their redesign based on the issues, and fears, that seem to be in play.
Date posted: April 23, 2004
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