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Policy Alert: Johnson Amendment under siege again

Sometime over the next two weeks – before Congress leaves Washington for the August recess – the Senate will be considering a measure that may open the floodgates to political money in the nonprofit sector. We must act now to prevent this from happening.

Once again, this threat comes in the form of language undermining enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, the IRS rule which protects the charitable sector from becoming a tool of political campaigns by forbidding any nonprofit from endorsing candidates for office. 

In a spending bill passed by the House, language was inserted allowing certain nonprofits – houses of worship, unions, chambers of commerce, and others – to weigh in on election politics. Coupled with legislation already passed, which ends requirements to identify certain donors to the IRS, this would mean that nonprofits could effectively be co-opted by political campaigns: Anyone who wanted to could make political donations anonymously and in unlimited amounts – and receive a tax break for them – by funneling those donations through a church or other nonprofit endorsing their candidate.

Obviously, turning nonprofits into political money-laundering operations would debase the trust we’ve built as a sector, and upend our reputation for nonpartisan problem-solving and community-building. This would severely constrain our ability to raise funds and make a positive impact. Ultimately, our communities will suffer as a result of any attempt to roll back enforcement of the Johnson Amendment.

As we have noted in previous action alerts, religious organizations in particular have made it abundantly clear that they do not support anti-Johnson legislation, despite the fact that its authors in Congress claim to be acting on behalf of houses of worship. In fact, more than 100 denominations and religious organizations, and more than 4,500 faith leaders, have signed joint letters expressing strong opposition to any attempt to weaken or eliminate the Johnson Amendment.

The Senate will be putting together their own version of the spending bill before the end of August. We must ensure that the House’s anti-Johnson language does not make it to the next step of the process.

We need you to act. 

Call and tweet your Senators today – and, if you can, follow up each day until this current threat has been put behind us. Tell them that our good work depends upon the Johnson Amendment’s protections. Remind them that trust is the charitable sector’s most important currency, and that nothing will erode that trust faster than introducing partisan politics into our operations. 

Don’t let them forget: We take care of their constituents and we unify them with purpose. For that, we must remain above the divisive, and downright ugly, forces of electoral politics.

To call: You can reach the offices of Georgia’s U.S. Senators at the following numbers; you can also send them a message through Twitter using their handle, though a phone call is generally considered more effective.

Sen. Johnny Isakson:   
202-224-3643 (D.C.)
770-661-0999 (Atlanta)

Sen. David Perdue:       
202-224-3521 (D.C.)
404-865-0087 (Atlanta)

Use this script, and consider telling them what repealing the Johnson Amendment would mean for your nonprofit, the people you serve, your district, and Georgia: 

The nonprofit community strongly supports the Johnson Amendment, the longstanding law that protects charitable organizations from partisan politics. We expect you to oppose any attempt to attach a rider to the spending bill that would repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment. Nonprofits are counting on you to preserve nonprofit nonpartisanship.

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