The following is a statement by Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO, Independent Sector:
“Independent Sector is troubled by any proposal to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a law that prohibits all 501(c)(3) organizations, including religious organizations, from engaging in political activity or endorsing candidates. For 60 years, this law has played an essential role in maintaining public confidence in, and support for, the charitable community. It ensures that charities remain a nonpartisan haven, separate from politics, in our civil society.
Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code permits charities to interact with public officials on a limited basis while strictly prohibiting them from engaging in political activity. This is an appropriate distinction, as countless charities work every day to educate public officials on issues relevant to their mission and important to their clients, members, or communities.
Speaking out and engaging in advocacy on mission-driven issues is an entirely different matter than endorsing candidates or getting involved in political campaigns. Allowing the endorsement of political candidates is tantamount to allowing political agents to use the public’s goodwill towards the charitable sector as a vehicle to advance, through financial contributions, their own partisan political will.
501(c)(3) organizations, as the public trust demands, should remain above the political fray, advocating and informing leaders, but not engaging in political activity. We urge all policymakers to reject any proposal to insert partisan politics into our sector, which will ultimately undermine the public trust in charitable organizations and do more harm than good.”
Independent Sector is the leadership forum for nonprofits, foundations, and corporations whose member networks collectively represent tens of thousands of organizations locally, nationally, and globally. Learn more at independentsector.org.