Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Charity Provision Must Be Stripped from Tax Bill

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Charity Provision Must Be Stripped from Tax Bill

Article excerpt

Buried in the House-passed version of the tax reform legislation being fast-tracked through Congress is a provision that threatens to shred the fabric of our communities, further damage our political system, and destroy the independence of houses of worship, charities, and foundations by injecting partisan politics into charitable and religious activities and paving the way for dark money to flow into these groups.

In a seismic shift from longstanding policy, Section 5201 of the House bill would allow 501(c)(3) charities, churches, and foundations to endorse candidates and engage in partisan political speech. It would effectively gut the existing law, known as the Johnson Amendment, which has for 60-plus years allowed these organizations to work in communities free from partisan pressures, divisions and interference. Even worse, it would for the first time allow political donations to be both anonymous and tax-deductible, opening the dark-money floodgates in unprecedented and alarming ways. To understand the extent of the consequences, consider the following scenarios:

An unscrupulous legislator refuses to take a position on a key bill unless a charitable organization endorses her re-election.

An influential donor makes a major contribution to a charitable organization on the condition that the organization speak out against a candidate that the donor opposes.

A university president sends an official email to the university's influential alumni network endorsing a particular candidate, and the university is then rewarded with a multimillion-dollar donation.

Wealthy donors choose to divert their nondeductible campaign contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations in order to take advantage of the tax deduction – a consequence that the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will cost the federal Treasury $2. …

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