Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How does this get a pass?

Can someone explain to me how this effort on behalf of a candidates doesn't endanger the tax-exempt status of this church? Or are they not a 501(c)(3)?

From the Briley campaign this morning:

...Can we count on you to come by and help out with writing some post cards? It is very simple and I promise that it doesn't hurt. We will be meeting tonight (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday) from 5pm to 8pm at Eastwood Christian Church, 1601 Eastland Avenue. And yes, you did hear the rumor to be true... WE ARE PROVIDING CHILD CARE!!

We had such a great response last night that the media actually got word and wants to swing by tonight postcard writing. Again, underlining the grassroots effort that will push David into the run-off Election. If you can, please try to show up.

I thank you greatly for all that you have done up until this point. If you think you can come tonight or tomorrow, simply hit that little reply button at the top of the email and let me know. Thanks again.

Alex Youn

Field Director

Briley for Mayor

I ask because obviously there are churches in town that are unnecessarily restraining the activities of their members and staff because they lack the knowledge that Eastland Christian has on this touchy issue.

This from the Internal Revenue Service:

Political Campaign Activity

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax.

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including the presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity.

In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not constitute prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner. On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that: (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention. [Emphasis added]

If the press is truly interested in this effort---they might want to broadly publish this loophole so the rest of this "City of Churches" can similarly support candidates.

UPDATE: AC Kleinheider did the legwork (Thanks AC) and discovered:
According to Campaign Manager Emily Passini, the campaign is paying for the space.
I'm glad the matter has been cleared up. I should have made the call myself. The campaign might have indicated they'd rented the space in order to ensure there was no misunderstanding. The Justice Sunday and Stand for the Family kerfluffle of last year that had some left leaning folks demanding the revocation of that church's non-profit status despite the fact the had also rented the space should have taught us to be more careful.


churchstate said...

if the campaign pays for the space and the church generally makes the space available to other groups/campaigns for similar pay and extent it has availability, then it gets a pass under 501c3. Did you ask, or try to found out --- or just shoot first and ask questions later?

Kay Brooks said...

It was 7:20 in the morning when I first posted this. Who was awake and at their desk to ask?

I've since posted an update.

churchstate said...

you did your damage, nice work.

Kay Brooks said...

What actual damage was done and to whom?

lcreekmo said...

I believe it's the shoot first, ask questions later that's the problem.

Kay Brooks said...

So asking equals shooting?

Or just MY asking here equals shooting?

Or my asking HERE equals shooting?

I drove by the church this evening. There are 4 or more Briley signs on the front Eastland lawn. I'll assume that they're only there for the evening to mark the venue for Briley volunteers and they'll come down immediately afterward.

Kay Brooks said...

And for the record, I'm told this morning, that the signs have been removed from the church lawn.

lcreekmo said...

Exactly, it's the asking HERE that I have a problem with. This is the kind of thing that lowers respect for blogging -- the Tennessean would never [at least I hope never....perhaps I should have picked a different example :) ] run a story saying, Briley campaign meeting at local church, what are the IRS implications? If they saw the event and were concerned, they'd pick up the phone FIRST and call the campaign or the church.

Of course, then you wouldn't have had much to post about.

It's like seeing a lawmaker's wife with her arm in a cast, and blogging, "I wonder if Congressman XXX beats his wife. She does have a broken arm, you know."

Or, seeing a lawmaker driving an expense car, and blogging, "I wonder if State Rep. YYY has ever taken a bribe. She does drive a Mercedes."

And then it turns out the congressman's wife fell down at the shopping mall and state rep. Y happens to have inherited a lot of money from her grandmother who died last year.

You can always retract and update, but sometimes asking the question in the wrong way has the potential to harm.

Buckley said...

Or seeing signs of a coordinated effort on a body like the Metro Council to make deals to replace a school board member and imply the sunshine laws have been broken only to later learn it was a political operative, not a council member, who did the coordinating.

It was 7:20 in the morning when I first posted this. Who was awake and at their desk to ask?

I'm betting we readers were asleep too and could have waited.

Kay Brooks said...

Likely, it could have waited. However, my online time was then---not later in the day. Lesson learned.

"Signs" don't equal the entire truth--as we've learned. And just because many pixels have been lit to say differently doesn't make it true.