Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Commonwealth Foundation breaks the law with political hit piece

Today, the Commonwealth Foundation released an “analysis” of gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf’s state budget proposals that clearly crosses into what the IRS considers to be electioneering. The "analysis" is no more than a political hit paid for by taxpayer funds timed for the day of the last gubernatorial debate.

The Commonwealth Foundation is 501c3 charity under IRS rules and it is prohibited from electioneering. Below is an explanation from the Congressional Research Service about how the IRS assesses whether or not an advocacy communication such as this “analysis” intervenes in political campaigns. Let’s count the ways – we get all 7.

Find this on page 5 of the CRS report:

Section 501(c)(3) organizations may take positions on policy issues. Because there is no rule that campaign activity occurs only when an organization expressly advocates for or against candidate, the line between issue advocacy and campaign activity can be difficult to discern.
According to the IRS, key factors that indicate an issue advocacy communication does not cross the line into campaign intervention include the following:
• the communication does not identify any candidates for a given public office, whether by name or other means, such as party affiliation or distinctive features of a candidate’s platform;
• the communication does not express approval or disapproval for any candidate’s positions and/or actions;
• the communication is not delivered close in time to an election;
• the communication does not refer to voting or an election;
• the issue addressed in the communication has not been raised as an issue distinguishing the candidates;
• the communication is part of an ongoing series by the organization on the same issue and the series is not timed to an election; and

• the identification of the candidate and the communication’s timing are related to a non-electoral event (e.g., a scheduled vote on legislation by an officeholder who is also a candidate).


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