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Political Campaigning by Churches and Charities: Hazardous for 501(c)(3)s; Dangerous for Democracy


Donald B. Tobin


Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law


Georgetown Law Journal, Forthcoming
Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 85
Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper No. 58

Abstract:     
Nonprofit section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from participating or intervening in an election on behalf of a candidate for public office. Despite this prohibition, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations have become increasingly active in political campaigns. Many organizations are either ignoring the political campaign ban or are using "issue discussion" or "lobbying" as a means of promoting candidates and testing the limits of the prohibition. Current scholarship surrounding the political campaign ban argues that the ban is either unconstitutional or inappropriate as a matter of public policy. This article argues that the ban is both meritorious and constitutional. It argues that taxpayer subsidized section 501(c)(3) organizations should not be permitted to intervene in political campaigns and that allowing them to do so will pose significant risks for the democratic system in the United States. It further argues that enforcement efforts with regard to the political campaign ban should be made public and delegated to an independent commission, outside the IRS, charged with enforcing campaign related prohibitions in the Internal Revenue Code.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 71

Keywords: Establishment Clause, First Amendment, charitable, religious

JEL Classification: H20, H22, H29, K34

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Date posted: December 4, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Tobin, Donald B., Political Campaigning by Churches and Charities: Hazardous for 501(c)(3)s; Dangerous for Democracy. Georgetown Law Journal, Forthcoming; Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 85; Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper No. 58. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=947905

Contact Information

Donald B. Tobin (Contact Author)
Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law ( email )
55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States
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