Johnson Amendment Repeal Possible as Part of Pending Budget Deal

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

UDATED 03.21.18 - Johnson Amendment repeal is NOT included in the $1.3 Trillion FY2018 budget bill . This is confirmed by three Minnesota Congressional delegation offices and through a review of the bill text

Congress is facing a Friday, March 23 deadline to adopt a budget and forestall a federal government shutdown. We are talking about the 2018 budget for the fiscal year that started October 1, 2017. The last time they went through this budget extension process was in February. In addition to temporarily extending spending authorizations, a two-year budget framework was adopted that significantly increased both domestic and military spending limits. (New York Times) The issue now is less about the dollars than opportunities to attach policy to what appears to be the last must-pass piece of legislation to be voted on before the mid-term elections. (Politico) As usual, the negotiations are not going according to plan but seem to be heading to last minute brinksmanship. (CNN)  (A vote has been scheduled in the U.S. House for Thursday, March 22, 2018.)

One of those last minute policy skirmishes is over repeal of the Johnson Amendment, the current law that prohibits tax exempt organizations from taking positions in support or opposition to candidates for elected offices.  The repeal was pushed as part of the federal tax reform bill but pulled out of the final version of the bill because a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian. (Christianity Today)

MCF staff met with representatives from the offices of each of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation last week to emphasize how strongly we oppose repeal of the Johnson Amendment.  While advocates in support of the repeal suggest it is a freedom of speech issue, we made it clear that current tax law provides tax exempt organizations the freedom to speak out on issues, and if they want to become involve with political activity, they have the option to create independent, 501(c)(4) organizations. (Americans United) The real issue driving efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment is opening a new channel for dark money to flow into political campaigns. (Solon

TAKE ACTION

Based on our conversations, a few of Minnesota’s representatives in D.C. still need encouragement to oppose the repeal of the Johnson Amendment:  Reps. Erik Paulsen (GOP-3rd),  Tom Emmer (GOP – 6th) and Collin Peterson (D – 7th). To be clear, we didn’t hear they supported repeal, but we also didn’t hear conclusive opposition.