Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation Education Fund
Political Activity Guidelines
As a non-profit organization whose activities are regulated in part by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation Education Fund (the “Federation”) is prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign of a candidate for public office. In order to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Code as well as any regulations governing the activities of non-profit organizations issued by the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”), the Federation has adopted the following guidelines governing the Federation’s involvement in political activities.
The IRS has stated that whether Code Section 501(c)(3) organizations (also referred to herein as “charitable organizations”) are viewed as participating or intervening in political activities depends on the facts and circumstances of the particular matter at hand. Due to limited IRS guidance in this area, the Federation’s employees and volunteers must perform a balancing test when determining whether an activity will be viewed by the IRS as a prohibited political activity. Thus, the Federation’s need to support its overarching purposes through political activities must be balanced against the understanding that the possible result of violating the IRS’ rules in this area is the loss of the Federation’s tax-exempt status.
Whether any one particular activity will violate those rules may be difficult to answer in the abstract. If the Federation’s activities in the aggregate can be viewed as supporting one candidate over another or constituting measurable involvement in a campaign, then the IRS is likely to find a violation of the Code. A single instance of a particular activity that is of a trifling nature, or that is insubstantial when compared to the Federation’s other activities, however, may not amount to a violation.
Nonetheless, given the severe nature of the penalty for violating the IRS’ rules with respect to political activities by charitable organizations, the Federation strives for complete compliance with those rules. Because application of the political campaign activity prohibition is inherently fact-specific and frequently presents close questions, the general guidance contained in these guidelines cannot anticipate every conceivable fact pattern, nor will it substitute for advice the Federation may receive from its attorneys. If you have any questions regarding whether a specific activity will violate the IRS’ rules regarding political activities by Code Section 501(c)(3) organizations, contact the Executive Director.
II. Political Campaign Activities
Code Section 501(c)(3) prohibits a range of activities related to participation in, or intervention in, political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office, generally including: issuing statements, in any medium, supporting or opposing any candidate, political party or political action committee (“PAC”); providing or soliciting financial support to any candidate, political party or PAC; providing or soliciting in-kind support for any candidate, political party or PAC; distributing voter education materials biased with respect to any candidate, political party or PAC; conducting public forums, debates or lectures biased with respect to any candidate, political party or PAC; and conducting voter registration or get-out-the-vote drives biased with respect to any candidate, political party or PAC.
Keep in mind that the Code’s political campaign activity prohibition is absolute. There is no exception for “de minimis” political campaign activity.
Treatment as a Candidate. The term “candidate” refers to any individual who offers himself or herself, or is proposed by others, as a contestant for an elective public office, whether national, state or local. The moment when an individual “offers himself or herself, or is proposed by others”, and thus becomes a candidate for elective public office, must be determined on the basis of all relevant facts and circumstances. Clearly, an individual who has announced his or her intention to seek election to public office is a candidate. However, even an individual who has not announced an intention to seek election (and, indeed, never becomes a candidate) can be considered a “candidate” for purposes of the prohibition on political campaign activities. In addition, others may propose an individual as a candidate and take steps to urge his or her election. However, the fact that an individual is a prominent political figure is not alone sufficient to make him or her a candidate. Rather, some action must be taken to make the individual a “candidate,” even though the action need not be taken by the individual or require his or her consent.
Further, Code Section 501(c)(3) does not restrict activity with respect to candidates for non-elective public office, e.g., federal judicial nominees. However, if an appointment is made or must be confirmed by a legislative body, any activities in support of or in opposition to the appointment are considered lobbying activities, and are subject to the relevant section 501(c)(3) lobbying limitations. In addition, an organization attempting to influence non-elective offices may be liable for tax under Code Section 527. Contact the Legislative Director if you have additional questions about whether or when a person will be considered a candidate.
“Public Office.” Neither the Code nor the regulations issued under it define the term “public office.” Generally, however, there must be some statutory or constitutional basis for construing an office as being a “public office.” For example, elected positions in a political party, such as precinct committee, may be considered “public office” if they (1) are created by statute; (2) are continuing; (3) are not occasional or contractual; (4) possess fixed terms of office; and (5) require an oath of office. Thus, it is important to consider whether the Federation’s activities may involve candidates for “public office” where the “office” involved might not normally be considered “public office.”
Application to Individuals. Code Section 501(c)(3) applies to organizations like the Federation, not to individuals. Accordingly, the political campaign activity prohibition applies to the Federation, and not to its leaders, employees or members, so long as those persons are acting in their individual capacities, and not as representatives of the organization. The IRS has stated that if an endorsement of a candidate or statement of opposition to a candidate occurs during an official organization function or appears in an organization’s official publication, the endorsement will be attributed to the organization.
Thus, the political campaign activity prohibition does not prevent Federation officials, employees or volunteers, acting in their individual capacities, from becoming involved in political activity. However, they may not in any way utilize the Federation’s financial resources, facilities or personnel for such activities, and must clearly and unambiguously indicate that any actions they take or statements they make reflect their own views, and not those of the Federation.
Attribution of an Individual’s Actions to the Federation. Organizations act through individuals. Thus, when officials of the Federation engage in political campaign activities at official Federation functions or through the Federation’s official publications, those activities will be attributed to the Federation.
Persons affiliated with the Federation may identify themselves as officials, employees and volunteers of the Federation so long as they make it clear that they are acting in their individual capacity, and not on behalf of the Federation, and that their association with the Federation is given for identification purposes only. Note, however, that the IRS has indicated that making such a disclaimer will not be effective to avoid attribution of an official’s political campaign activities to the Federation if the activities occur in an official publication of the Federation, or at an official Federation function.
Actions of the Federation’s employees (other than its officials) and volunteers may also be attributed to the Federation if there is real or apparent authorization of those actions by the Federation. The IRS has indicated that general agency principles apply in evaluating such authorization issues. Any actions taken by Federation employees that are within the scope of those employees’ employment will generally be treated as having been conducted with the Federation’s authorization. In addition, actions taken by Federation volunteers may be attributed to the Federation if the Federation in any way approves those actions or fails to disavow the actions of individual volunteers when such actions appear to have been performed with the Federation’s approval.
B. Application of the Prohibition on Political
Campaign Activity to Specific Circumstances
Ways in which the Code’s prohibition on political campaign activity may apply to situations that the Federation encounters during election campaigns are set forth below.
Endorsements, Statements of Opposition. The Federation may not directly or indirectly make any statement, in any medium, that endorses or opposes any candidate for public office, political party, or PAC.
Financial Support. The Federation may not provide or solicit financial support, including market-rate loans and loan guarantees, for or on behalf of any candidate, political party, or PAC.
Fundraising. The Federation may not conduct fundraising events or activities, or otherwise solicit funds, for or on behalf of any candidate, political party, or PAC. Likewise, the Federation may not permit fundraising for or on behalf of any candidate, political party, or PAC at any official, or Federation-sponsored event.
In-Kind Support. The Federation may not provide or solicit in-kind support, such as use of Federation volunteers, employees, facilities, equipment, office supplies, mailing lists, etc., for or on behalf of any candidate, political party, or PAC.
Loans. The Federation may not make loans to, or execute loan guarantees on behalf of, any candidate, political party or PAC. Such activities violate the political campaign activity prohibition even if market-rate interest is charged and the loan is repaid.
Paid Political Advertising. The Federation may not provide political advertising to a candidate, political party or PAC in any Federation newsletter, publication or forum for free, at a reduced rate, or on a selective basis. This is because once the Federation runs one paid political advertisement from any particular candidate, the organization cannot selectively decline to accept others.
Campaign Materials. The Federation may not distribute voter education or any other type of campaign materials prepared by any candidate, political party or PAC.
Collecting Signatures for Ballot Access. The Federation may not collect signatures for, or encourage voters to sign, petitions permitting any candidate to appear on an election ballot. Even if all candidates are treated equally, this activity directly furthers the political candidacies of the individuals involved, and violates the IRS’ prohibition on political campaign activities.
Candidate Appearances at Federation-Sponsored Events. Whether a charitable organization may invite a candidate to speak at a sponsored event depends upon all the facts and circumstances surrounding the invitation, as does the question of whether the candidate is invited in his or her capacity as a candidate or in his or her individual capacity.
If a candidate is invited to appear at a Federation event in his or her capacity as a candidate, the rules applicable to public forums (see below) apply, and, generally, equal access must be provided to all other candidates running for the same office. The nature of the event will be considered in determining whether equal access has been provided to all candidates. For example, if one candidate is invited to speak at an organization’s national convention, and the candidate’s opponent is offered the opportunity to speak at a breakfast attended by only a handful of people, the IRS’ equal access requirement is not satisfied. Inviting two opposing candidates with the knowledge and expectation that one will not accept the invitation because of well-known opposing viewpoints is unlikely to be considered to be providing equal access.
If a candidate is invited to speak in his or her capacity as a public figure or expert, it is not necessary to provide equal access to other candidates. However, if a candidate appears at a Federation event under such circumstances, the Federation will take the following precautions to avoid violating the political campaign activity prohibition: (1) the candidate must speak only in his or her capacity as an expert or public figure and not as a candidate; (2) no mention should be made of his or her candidacy; (3) no campaign activity should occur in connection with the candidate’s appearance; and (4) all publicity and other communications regarding the candidate’s attendance should identify the capacity in which the candidate is appearing and should not mention his or her candidacy.
Note, however, that if the primary purpose of an invitation is to showcase an individual’s candidacy, the Federation could still be viewed as violating the political campaign activity prohibition – even if no campaign activity occurs at the event. If a candidate’s appearance is not treated as a political event, payment of a customary honorarium to the candidate should not result in a violation of the political campaign activity prohibition, unless the payment is intended to support the candidate’s campaign.
Contact the Legislative Director for assistance in determining whether a candidate for public office invited to appear at a Federation event is appearing in his or her individual capacity or as a candidate, and, if the individual has been invited in his or her capacity as a candidate, whether equal access must be provided to all other candidates for the same office.
Bumper Stickers. Placement of political bumper stickers is essentially an attribution issue. Political bumper stickers should not be placed on vehicles owned by, or used by the Federation for official business. Code Section 501(c)(3) does not, however, prohibit Federation officials, employees, or volunteers from placing political bumper stickers on their personally‑owned vehicles.
Columnists. Generally, statements of columnists appearing in Federation newsletters are attributable to the Federation. This is true even if the columnist is not paid by the Federation, and is especially true if the columnist is a Federation official, because such newsletters are official publications of the Federation, and the Federation exercises editorial control over its columnists. As a result, the Federation will reject columns that endorse or oppose candidates.
Educating Candidates. As a general rule, the Federation’s private efforts during election campaigns to educate candidates about pro-life issues or to attempt to change the positions of those candidates on such issues should not violate the political activity prohibition. If, however, the Federation publicizes its candidate education efforts, those efforts may, depending on the circumstances, constitute a violation of the political activity prohibition. Further, if the candidate is an incumbent legislator, whether federal, state or local, the Federation’s education efforts could constitute lobbying activity subject to the lobbying limitations discussed below.
Internet and Website Activities. The Federation maintains a website and utilizes e-mail for communicating with its employees, volunteers and the general public. The political campaign activity prohibition and these guidelines apply with equal force to the Federation’s website and e-mail communications. Thus, a communication or activity that would constitute a violation of the political campaign activity prohibition in another form does not lose that characterization simply because it occurs on a website or via e-mail. Further, the following information posted on Federation’s website or contained in an e-mail communications sent by the Federation violates the political campaign activity prohibition: (a) selective links to websites maintained by a candidate, PAC or political party; (b) endorsements of or statements of opposition to any candidate; (c) biased voter education materials or links; and (d) links to other websites that support or oppose candidates. Contact the Education Director with any questions regarding information posted to the Federation’s website or communicated via its e-mail system.
Mailing Lists. Selling, renting or lending the Federation’s mailing lists to candidates, political parties, or PACs on a preferential basis, or without charge, violates the political activity prohibition. However, organizations that regularly sell or rent their mailing lists to other organizations at fair market rate will not violate the political campaign activity prohibition if they sell or rent the lists to a candidate on the same terms the lists are sold or rented to others, provided the lists are equally available to all other candidates on the same terms. To satisfy this equal availability standard, the Federation must show that all candidates are afforded a reasonable opportunity to acquire its mailing lists and that all candidates are informed of the availability of the Federation’s lists. Because of this requirement, the Federation will not rent or sell its mailing list to any candidate, political party or PAC.
PACs. The Federation may not establish a PAC, nor may it provide any financial or in-kind support to a PAC. Code Section 527 defines a PAC as a political action committee whose purpose is to influence the election of any individual to public office, whether as a separate organization or as a segregated fund of an organization. A PAC is distinguishable from a section 501(c)(4) organization, which is permitted to engage in political campaign activity provided such activity is not the organization’s primary activity.
In some cases, the directors of Code Section 501(c)(3) organizations, may, in their individual capacities, be permitted to establish an independent, non-connected PAC without violating the prohibition on political campaign activities. Contact the Legislative Director with any questions regarding establishing a PAC in these circumstances.
Photo Opportunities. It is not unusual, during the heat of a campaign, for a candidate or campaign organization to contact the Federation requesting a photo opportunity. Determining whether such a request may be appropriate from a Code Section 501(c)(3) perspective is difficult out of context. Contact the Legislative Director for assistance in dealing with such situations.
Renting Facilities. From time to time, the Federation may be asked to rent its facilities to candidates or political parties for partisan activities such as party conventions or caucuses, candidate rallies, etc. Renting the Federation’s facilities for such purposes is not per se prohibited by the Code. If the Federation agrees to rent its facilities in this way, it will follow the follow procedures: (a) a fair market rental rate will be charged; (b) the facility may not be provided for free or at a reduced charge; (c) if the facility is made available for rental only to affiliated Federation users, it should not be made available to a candidate or political party; (d) if the facility is made available for rental to outside users, the facility must be made available to a candidate or political party on the same basis as other outside users; (e) the facility should be equally available for all candidates or parties, with no preference for any particular candidate or party; and (f) the Federation should not advertise, promote, or provide other services in connection with an event taking place in its facility.
Signs on Federation Property. Placement of political signs is essentially an attribution issue. Political signs should not be placed on property owned the Federation or rented by the Federation for official business. Code Section 501(c)(3) does not prohibit the placement of political signs on the personally-owned property of Federation officials, employees or volunteers.
Voter Registration/Get-Out-the-Vote Drives. The Federation may sponsor voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, provided that no bias for or against any candidate, political party, or voting position is evidenced. Such bias would be indicated by distribution of partisan literature or materials indicating the Federation’s positions in connection with the voter registration or get-out-the-vote drive; by targeting registration or get-out-the-vote drives toward individuals who support the Federation’s positions or a particular candidate or party; or by coordinating the drive with candidates or their committees. Federation voter registration or get-out-the vote efforts should not be conducted: (a) in cooperation with any political campaign; (b) according to the identity of the candidates; (c) based upon a candidate’s or party’s agreement or disagreement with the Federation’s positions; or (d) in a manner targeting members of a particular party.
The following factors may be used to determine whether an organization sponsoring a voter registration or get-out-the-vote drive has violated the political campaign activity prohibition: (1) whether no candidate is mentioned or depicted or all candidates for a particular office are mentioned or depicted without favoring any candidate over any other; (2) whether communications about the drive name no political party except for identifying the party affiliation of all candidates named or depicted; (3) whether communications about the drive are limited to urging acts such as voting and registering to vote and to describing the hours and places of registration and voting; and (4) whether all drive services are made available without regard to the voter’s political preference.
Targeting voter registration drives at historically disadvantaged groups, whether based on economic status, race, gender or language, however, generally should not violate the IRS’ rules against political campaign activity. In addition, the IRS has indicated that voter registration lists may be used to identify unregistered voters, but not to target voters who are registered as belonging to a specific party
III. Activities That Educate Voters
Although the Federation is prohibited from engaging in political campaign activities during election campaigns, the Federation may nevertheless educate voters about the pro-life issues important to the Federation through issue advocacy. In addition, the Federation may educate voters about candidates’ positions on the issues through the sponsorship of candidate forums and distribution of voter education materials, e.g., incumbents’ voting records or results of candidate polls or questionnaires. Such activities, if unbiased in content, structure, format, and context, should not violate the political campaign activity prohibition.
A. Issue Advocacy
The political campaign activity prohibition does not prevent the Federation from addressing public policy issues or from pursuing its legislative advocacy program during election campaign periods. The fact that the positions of particular candidates may align with the Federation’s own positions will not alone taint an issue communication. However, an issue advocacy communication may constitute intervention in a political campaign through the use of certain code words, such as “conservative,” “liberal,” “pro-life,” “pro-choice,” “anti-choice,” “Republican,” or “Democrat,” coupled with a discussion of an individual’s candidacy or election, even if no candidate is specifically named. Thus, the Federation’s issue advocacy communications should not contain any overt indications that the Federation supports or opposes any particular candidate (or slate of candidates) in an election. Rather, the Federation’s communications should be solely restricted to discussion of the Federation’s issues.
The following criteria may indicate that a communication on a public policy issue violates the prohibition on political campaign activity: (a) the communication identifies a candidate for public office; (b) the timing of the communication coincides with an election campaign; (c) the communication targets voters in a particular election; (d) the communication identifies the candidate’s position on the public policy issue that is the subject of the communication; (e) the candidate’s position on the public policy issue has been raised as distinguishing the candidate from others in the campaign, either in the communication itself or in other public communications; and (f) the communication is not part of an ongoing series of substantially similar advocacy communications by the organization on the same issue.
A Federation issue advocacy communication should not be viewed as violating the prohibition on political campaign activity if the following factors are present: (1) the absence of factors (a) through (f) described above are absent; (2) the communication identifies specific legislation, or a specific event outside the control of the Federation, that the Federation hopes to influence, such as a legislative vote or other major legislative action (e.g., a hearing before a legislative committee on the subject of the communication); (3) the timing of the communication coincides with a specific event outside the Federation’s control that the Federation hopes to influence; (4) the communication identifies the candidate solely as a government official who is in a position to act on the public policy issue in connection with the specific event (such as a legislator who is eligible to vote on the legislation); and (5) the communication identifies the candidate in the list of key or principal sponsors of the legislation that is the subject of the communication.
B. Broad Range of Issues Addressed
If the Federation encourages voters to participate in the electoral process by providing information about candidates and their positions (voter education, as discussed above), any candidate information provided should cover a broad range of issues in an unbiased manner.
With respect to issue advocacy communications distributed during election periods, a narrow-issue focus will not per se constitute a violation of the political campaign activity prohibition. That said, there is real risk that an advocacy communication focused on a narrow issue during an election campaign could implicitly invite the communication’s audience to measure the candidates’ views against the Federation’s agenda. This risk is increased significantly with respect to narrow-issue advocacy communications that mention candidates by name or through the use of “code words.” (Note that such advertisements may be prohibited by law during certain time periods as “electioneering communications.”) Contact the Legislative Director or the Federation’s legal counsel to determine whether a proposed issue advocacy communication constitutes a prohibited “electioneering communication.”
C. Public Forums, Debates, Candidate Nights
The Federation may sponsor unbiased public forums, debates, candidate nights and similar activities, in which candidates explain their views to the public. However, if it does so, the Federation may not indicate its views on the issues being discussed, comment on candidates’ responses, or in any other way indicate bias for or against a particular candidate, party or position. The following factors are important to a favorable IRS determination on candidate forums: (a) all legally qualified candidates must be invited to participate; (b) the questions are prepared and presented by an independent nonpartisan panel; (c) the topics discussed cover a broad range of issues of interest to the public; (d) each candidate has an equal opportunity to present his or her views on the issues discussed; and (e) the moderator does not comment on the questions or otherwise make comments that imply approval or disapproval of any of the candidates.
Generally, all bona fide candidates for a particular office should be invited to participate, since a policy of excluding candidates may show bias. However, there are circumstances in which candidates may be excluded. For example, a candidate debate during the primary election campaign may be limited to legally qualified candidates seeking the nomination of a particular political party. In addition, if the field of legally qualified candidates is large, the sponsoring organization may limit participation based upon “pre-established objective criteria.” Any debate must include at least two candidates and must not promote or advance one candidate over another. In addition, for a general election, the sponsoring organization may not use nomination by a particular political party as the sole objective criterion for participation
The following criteria may be used to determine whether a Code Section 501(c)(3) organization that fails to invite all legally qualified candidates to a sponsored debate has violated the political campaign activity prohibition: (a) whether inviting all legally qualified candidates was impractical; (b) whether the organization adopted reasonable, objective criteria for determining which candidates to invite; (c) whether the criteria were applied consistently and non-arbitrarily to all candidates; and (d) whether other relevant factors indicate the debate was conducted in a neutral, nonpartisan manner. If all candidates appear at the public forum to speak, all candidates may distribute their campaign literature. If all candidates do not appear to speak, no distribution of campaign literature should be permitted.
D. Voter Guides
Voter Guides – Candidate Questionnaires. Polling candidates or asking candidates to complete questionnaires designed to elicit their positions on various issues is a neutral activity, assuming that the questions themselves do not exhibit bias. It is only when the results are disseminated during an election campaign that the political campaign activity prohibition becomes a potential issue. The following criteria may determine whether publication or distribution of the results of a candidate questionnaire will violate the political campaign activity prohibition: (a) whether the questionnaire is sent to all candidates; (b) whether all candidate responses are published; (c) whether the questions indicate bias toward the sponsoring organization’s preferred answer; (d) whether the responses are compared to the sponsoring organization’s positions on the issues; (e) whether the responses are published as received, without editing by the sponsoring organization; and (f) whether a wide range of issues is covered by the questionnaire. Whether a wide range of issues is covered will depend on the particular office being sought by the candidates.
The IRS has concluded that an organization that published the positions of all candidates in a particular race on a wide variety of issues selected solely on the basis of their importance to the electorate as a whole will not violate the political campaign activity prohibition, where neither the questionnaire nor the voter guide evidenced bias or preference in content or structure. Conversely, publication of responses to a candidate questionnaire that evidenced bias on certain issues willviolate the political campaign activity prohibition.
Questionnaires should be distributed to all candidates, and all candidates should be encouraged to respond. No coordination, cooperation, or consultation with candidates, their committees, etc., should take place. Failure of all candidates to respond, may, in certain circumstances, require re-evaluation of the appropriateness of distributing questionnaire results. If only one candidate in a particular race responds, the questionnaire responses may not be useable. FEC rules governing voter guides produced by Code Section 501(c)(3) organizations require the participation of at least two candidates.
The Federation will comply with the guidelines and criteria discussed above if it decides to prepare a candidate questionnaire-type voter guide. The Federation will not, however, in any circumstances attempt to develop position statements for candidates that fail to respond to any candidate questionnaire it distributes. Contact the Legislative Director or the Federation’s legal counsel with questions involving candidate questionnaires.
Outside Voter Education Materials. The Federation will not distribute “voter education” materials prepared by outside groups without carefully analyzing such materials, even if the materials are accompanied by outside legal opinions. For example, the issues covered in outside voter education materials may not accurately reflect issues of importance to the Federation, but rather will reflect the issue focus of the preparing organization. In addition, the preparation, content, format and presentation of such materials may not satisfy the requirements of Code Section 501(c)(3) applicable to the Federation. Further, the organizations preparing such voter education materials may not be Code Section 501(c)(3) organizations, and thus are not subject to the political campaign activity prohibition. The fact that it may be permissible for the preparing organization to distribute certain voter education materials will not make it appropriate for the Federation to do so. Contact the Legislative Director or the Federation’s legal counsel before distributing voter education materials prepared by outside organizations.
Voter Guides - Incumbent Voting Records. Compilation of incumbents’ voting records is a common method of voter education. Voting records may also be compiled as part of a charitable organization’s lobbying efforts. Whether the publication and distribution of incumbent voting records violates the political campaign activity prohibition is based on all the relevant facts and circumstances, including: (a) whether incumbents are identified as candidates; (b) whether incumbents’ positions are compared to the positions of other candidates; (c) whether incumbents’ positions are compared to the sponsoring organization’s positions; (d) the timing, extent, and manner of distribution; and (e) the breadth or narrowness of the issues presented in the voting record.
Because the IRS has issued somewhat contradictory guidance regarding whether the publication and distribution of incumbent voting records will constitute prohibited political campaign activity, it is important that the Federation follow the above listed guidelines in preparing a compilation of incumbent voting records. Contact the Legislative Director or the Federation’s legal counsel before preparing and distributing a compilation of incumbent voting records for distribution to the public.
Rating Candidates. Although the Federation may, under certain circumstances prepare voting guides and other similar materials, rating candidates for character, experience and professional ability, even on a non-partisan basis, violates the political campaign activity prohibition and is not permitted. Rating candidates based on their agreement with the Federation’s positions or labeling candidates as pro-life or anti-family or by using symbols or signs, likewise violates the political campaign activity prohibition. The Federation will not rate or label candidates in such ways.
IV. Lobbying Activities
A. General Limits on Lobbying
In the most basic terms, “lobbying” focuses on “legislation,” while “political campaign activity” focuses on candidates and campaigns for election. “Legislation” means any action: (a) by Congress, a state or local legislative body; or (b) by the public in a referendum, initiative, constitutional amendment or similar process.
Lobbying includes both “direct lobbying” and “grassroots lobbying.” “Direct lobbying” means contacting members of a legislative body, whether federal, state, or local, for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation or advocating the adoption or rejection of specific legislation. “Grassroots lobbying” means urging members of the public to do the same. Although Code Section 501(c)(3) limits the amount of lobbying a charitable organization can do, it does not prohibit lobbying outright, as is the case with political campaign activity. The lobbying limitation applies both to lobbying that is germane to a charitable organization’s tax-exempt purposes and to lobbying that is not.
As noted above, the Code limits the amount of lobbying in which Code Section 501(c)(3) organizations may engage. Under Code Section 501(c)(3), charitable organizations may engage in lobbying activities only if they do not constitute a “substantial” part of their total activities, measured by time, effort, expenditure and other such relevant factors. Neither the Code nor the regulations issued under it, however, define what is “substantial” in this context. Certain court cases suggest that the line between what is “substantial” and what is “insubstantial” lies somewhere between 5% and 15% of an organization’s total activities. To be sure it meets the Code’s limits on “lobbying,” the Federation will spend no more than 5% of its time or resources on such activities. Contact the Legislative Director or the Federation’s legal counsel before engaging in any lobbying activities.
B. Ballot Measures and Similar Initiatives
Ballot measures, including referenda, initiatives, constitutional amendments, and bond measures, are considered legislative proposals. Thus, involvement by Code Section 501(c)(3) organizations in various forms of ballot measures is limited, but not prohibited, by the Code as discussed above. The Federation may support or oppose ballot measures, etc., in furtherance of its exempt purposes, subject to the relevant lobbying limitation, without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status provided it follows the lobbying rules. Contact the Legislative Director or the Federation’s legal counsel with questions regarding the Federation’s involvement with ballot measures and similar initiatives.
Adopted by the Board of Directors
Dated: _February 10, 2007
President, Board of Directors
Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, Inc