Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer rights group, has prepared an interim draft paper known as the The Bright Lines Project, with six proposed rules designed to clarify Internal Revenue Service regulations governing nonprofit organizations' political activities.
The interim draft was the work of nine tax law experts, led by attorney Gregory Colvin, a principal with Adler & Colvin in San Francisco. The paper was released by the Treasury Department under the Freedom of Information Act (see related story in this issue).
The Bright Lines Project (BLP) is a project of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division. The group is seeking a new definition of political intervention that is clear and predictable most of the time.
The group's central principle is that the federal tax definition of political speech aimed at withdrawing the subsidy of tax exemption for political candidate-related activity reaches beyond express advocacy and covers all speech that supports or opposes a candidate elected to public office.
That broader test should be modeled on the test for lobbying activity that IRS adopted in 1990, the interim draft said, “successfully drawing bright lines--any communication to any part of the electorate that refers to a clearly identified candidate and reflects a view on that candidate.”
One of the proposed six rules is that it would be “express advocacy” to expressly endorse making contributions to a candidate, party, or other organization that has the primary purpose of engaging in political intervention.
Text of the The Bright Lines Project: Clarifying Rules on Political Intervention, is in TaxCore.
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