On the Horizon in 2017: Are Political Spending Restrictions on Section 501(c)(3) Organizations Going Away?
2017 is sure to bring more changes on the political law front. In February, President Trump repeated his support for overturning the “Johnson Amendment” – a long-standing provision in the tax code that strictly prohibits churches and other Section 501(c)(3) charitable organizations from engaging in any political campaign activities. If the law is changed, individuals and organizations may be able to support entities engaging in political speech with tax deductible deductions. At the same time, the administration is also considering an executive order to loosen political restriction on churches. These changes could make religious organizations new vehicles for supporting and opposing candidates in 2018 and beyond.
At this time, it is unclear whether any repeal of the Johnson Amendment would apply broadly to narrow or remove the prohibition against political activities for all Section 501(c)(3) organizations, or provide just a limited carve-out for churches and religious organizations. Although the Administration can change the interpretation or enforcement of the current prohibition, any formal repeal of the statutory prohibition would require Congressional action.
We'll be following this issue and other new developments closely in Political Law Notes. Also, you can view Jim Kahl and Jeff Altman's recent webinar – Federal Lobbying & Ethics Rules in 2017 – here. A PDF copy of the webinar PowerPoint can be seen here.