Nonprofits and Politics: Full Steam Ahead for “Issue Advocacy”

In the midst of the IRS’s proposed regulations to impose new restrictions on Section 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations (and the duly deserved emerging backlash against them), it is critically important to remember that both Section 501(c)(3) public charities and Section 501(c)(4) organizations enjoy a First Amendment constitutional right to engage in “issue advocacy,” so long as such communications are not “too” political or otherwise improper.  In a nutshell, that means these organizations – and their leaders – should be able to educate people about a wide variety of public policy iss

Who Benefits?

Whether starting a new nonprofit or running a well developed one, leaders nonprofits should carefully evaluate their activities to ensure that they are, in fact, serving appropriate beneficiaries within the meaning of applicable exemption laws.  Consider the following cautionary tale involving a new section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, which provides lessons for other tax-exempt organization as well.