Posts Tagged ‘2024.Election’

A Reminder for Charities and Officers in Charities

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

I live in a swing district in a swing state.  One of the things we dread is election mail.  The primary for state offices is in June, and already we’re receiving flyers.  I’m sure the robocalls are soon to come (the robo-texts have already begun). The television and radio ads have begun (there was an advertisement during the Super Bowl for a candidate). November 6th can’t come soon enough.

I happened to need to link to a blog post I wrote four years ago, and I noticed the previous post dealt with charities and the election.  Charities are defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Tax Code.  It’s seems quite timely to remind everyone that one of the things charities cannot do is endorse a candidate.

So what does this cover? It includes the obvious (making political contributions, endorsing candidates, or speaking in favor or against a candidate) and some less obvious items (leasing space to a political campaign and using the organization’s mailing or email list for a campaign). There’s no de minimis rule, so if your 501(c)(3) gives $1 to the Trump or Biden campaigns, you could lose your 501(c)(3) status.

There’s a corollary that I want to emphasize: Officers (and employees) of 501(c)(3) charitable organizations must be very careful about their public statements for (or against) any candidate or cause. I am officer of and on the Board of Directors of a 501(c)(3) charity.  Let’s say I am for Assemblyman Smith in her candidacy for Nevada State Senate. I publicly endorse her. Of course, I, as an individual, can endorse whomever I wish. But I’m also an officer of a 501(c)(3). In my endorsement, did I note that this was my endorsement, and that nothing I’m saying is attributable to that charity? Am I careful doing that in all social media?

From a practical sense, it’s unlikely the IRS would go after a charity or a public foundation (which are 501(c)(3) charities). But they can, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you’re an officer of a 501(c)(3) organization, it’s an excellent idea to make sure all officers and employees are aware of the rules.