Friday, November 12, 2021

Nonprofits & Politics: VP Harris & Virginia Churches, The Left & Dark Money, Liberty University

Kamala_Harris_Vice_Presidential_PortraitPerhaps driven by the sharpness of our current political divides, even the relatively few elections this year generated a steady stream of stories about nonprofits, politics, and possible violations of the federal tax laws. Here are some highlights:

  • A video message from Vice President Kamala Harris that reportedly was played in more than 300 black churches in Virginia strongly supported gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and so appears to have violated the Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) prohibition on tax-exempt charities, including churches, intervening in political campaigns. Demonstrating its consistent opposition to such activities, whether favoring Republican or Democratic candidates, the Freedom from Religion Foundation promptly filed a complaint with the IRS about churches airing the video and other pro-McAuliffe activities in Virginia churches.
  • The Atlantic published a lengthy interview titled The Massive Progressive Dark-Money Group You've Never Head Of. The interview is with Sampriti Ganguli, the CEO of little known business-services group Arabella Advisors, which the interviewer asserts has played a major role in helping left-leaning "dark money" groups quietly pull ahead of right-leaning groups in total spending. Relatedly, OpenSecrets last spring published a report titled 'Dark money' topped $1 billion in 2020, largely boosting Democrats. Such groups are section 501(c)(4)s or other non-charities that are permitted to engage in a limited amount of political campaign intervention, so their activities may be in compliance with their federal tax status.
  • Politico reported late last month that the new president of Liberty University said in a recorded phone call that one of the main goals so the University's Standing for Freedom Center is "getting people elected". In response to concerns that doing so would be problematic under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3), President Jerry Prevo responded "I know how to work 50c3". The University official who raised the concerns was fired earlier last month, which he asserts was in part in retaliation for him doing so. Additional coverage: Forbes, Salon.

Lloyd Mayer

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/nonprofit/2021/11/nonprofits-politics-vp-harris-virginia-churches-the-left-dark-money-liberty-university-again.html

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