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

Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper No. 58

Georgetown Law Journal, v. 95, 2007, p. 1313+

Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 85

52 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2006 Last revised: 20 Jun 2014

Donald B. Tobin

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

Date Written: 2007

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.

Keywords: Establishment Clause, First Amendment, charitable, religious

JEL Classification: H20, H22, H29, K34

Suggested Citation

Tobin, Donald B., Political Campaigning by Churches and Charities: Hazardous for 501(C)(3)S; Dangerous for Democracy (2007). Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper No. 58; Georgetown Law Journal, v. 95, 2007, p. 1313+; Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 85. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=947905

Donald B. Tobin (Contact Author)

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States

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