Public charities described under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) that wish to engage in politically related speech must consider several important questions:
- May Section 501(c)(3) organizations engage in political campaign activity at all?
- Just what is “political campaign activity”?
- Who or what determines whether speech is political?
Since 1954, 501(c)(3) organizations have been prohibited from engaging in certain politically-related speech, with the possible penalty of the loss of tax-exempt status. This has been historically problematic, since what constitutes political speech can be hard to determine, and the IRS uses a vague “facts and circumstances” test in its assessments. However, Congress is considering a newly proposed law that would make it permissible for c(3)s to engage in limited politically-related speech.