Forum release on Johnson Amendment and Community Letter

GRANTMAKERS of Oregon and Southwest Washington has signed onto the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship, along with other philanthropy-supporting organizations, charitable nonprofits, religious institutions, and foundations. The letter delivers a clear message to Congress that our sector stands behind the Johnson Amendment, a law that protects nonprofits from being hounded for partisan political contributions and endorsements. So far, nearly 4,500 organizations have signed onto the letter. 

Our parent organization, The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, had this to say about the Johnson Amendment and their statement:

“According to the Council on Foundations, if the Johnson Amendment were repealed, 501(c)(3) organizations could become entities that are given tax-deductible donations for the purpose of participating in the electoral process, and donors would be completely shielded from disclosure—hindering transparency. Because donors could deduct any contributions, as well as shield their donations from disclosure, it would create an incentive for people to switch from giving money to PACs and super PACs (which are required to identify their donors) to 501(c)(3)s.

“501(c)(3)s would be able to participate in influencing elections without disclosing their donors as long as ‘no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation.’ (NOTE: some estimates would limit this number to 10-20% of their budgets, while others have argued that as long as less than half of an organization’s budget was used for political activity, that would satisfy the ‘no substantial part’ test—but the IRS has never defined this or assigned a percentage). Effectively, this would completely open the door to endorsing or opposing specific political candidates, while still maintaining restrictions for charities to lobby on behalf of issues and legislation.

“As some 501(c)(3) organizations spend millions, and even billions, of dollars every year, this could result in exorbitant amounts of dollars being used to influence the electoral process without American taxpayers being able to scrutinize which parties are behind the contributions.

“Furthermore, private foundation CEOs, staffs and boards could find themselves feeling pressured to not only endorse political candidates at local, state and federal levels but to support them financially, draining resources that would otherwise be going to charitable purposes.”

Learn more about the Forum’s Statement on the Johnson Amendment and the Community Letter at givingforum.org and givevoice.org.