MCF Opposes Turning Nonprofits into Partisan Organizations

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Repeal of the so called “Johnson Amendment” is in play as Congress gears up for a full fledged run at comprehensive tax reform. Named after Lyndon Johnson, who had lead responsibility for its enactment, the law requires organizations that accept tax exempt deductions to refrain from partisan politics. Similar prohibitions are applied to the use of government grant funds or government employee endorsements of political candidates. Repeal of the Johnson Amendment would be bad; no it would be disastrous for the independent sector. Civil society creates a strong democracy when they are nonpartisan. The sector's services to individuals and communities are for the common good and not the good a particular political party or candidate. And, we do not want nonprofits to become the new pathway for dark money into politics. MCF joins with national advocates in strongly opposing repeal of the Johnson Amendment (Council on Foundations, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and Independent Sector).

Based on our conversations with Hill staffers in Washington, D.C., it’s almost a foregone conclusion that eliminating the historic prohibition of partisan activity by nonprofits will be included in any tax bill approved by the House of Representatives. The Trump Administration signaled support for opening up nonprofits to partisan, political in April when signing a religious liberty executive order.  Support in the Senate Finance committee has been tepid.

A commentary by national leaders of the Council of Foundations and Council of Nonprofits makes the case for keeping partisan politics out of the nonprofit sector appears in the current issue of MCF’ Giving Forum magazine.

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