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Nonprofit Electioneering Post Citizens United: Has the System Become More 'Complex'?

40 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2013  

Daniel E. Chand

New Mexico State University

Date Written: August 29, 2013


Nonprofits face a complex web of congressional statutes and administrative rules designed to regulate their advocacy activities. As a result, most politically active nonprofits have formed “complex organization structures” of multiple tax-exempt statuses, which are intended to bolster an organization’s overall advocacy by allowing the group to delegate specific activities to different entities. Citizens United v. FEC (2010) and the subsequent rise of “super PACs” has further incentivized groups to develop these complex structures. This study describes the system of regulations governing nonprofits involved in elections and examines the electioneering activities of 50 of the most politically active nonprofits involved in the last four elections: 2006 through 2012. The findings show that groups – especially 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations – are relying less on their traditional PACs to make direct contributions to candidates and are, following Citizens, increasingly making independent expenditures directly from their 501(c) tax-exempt status and from loosely affiliated super PACs.

Keywords: Citizens United v. FEC (2010), nonprofits, 501(c), super PACs, social welfare, IRS

Suggested Citation

Chand, Daniel E., Nonprofit Electioneering Post Citizens United: Has the System Become More 'Complex'? (August 29, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Daniel E. Chand (Contact Author)

New Mexico State University ( email )

College of Business
Las Cruces, NM 88003
United States

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