Federal Electioneering Rules
Charities are strictly prohibited under Federal Law from engaging in electioneering. Electioneering is participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office. Charities cannot endorse any candidates, make donations to their campaigns, engage in fund raising, distribute statements, or become involved in any other activities that may be beneficial to or detrimental to any candidate for public office.
Charities must operate in non-partisan mode. Charities must be aware that engaging in prohibited campaign activity could result in excise taxes imposed on the money spent electioneering; loss of tax-exempt status, and more severe penalties for flagrant violations. Contributions to charities that lose their tax exempt status are not deductible by the donors for federal income tax purposes.
The IRS recognizes that voter education and issue advocacy (lobbying)are important charitable services. Charities are permitted and encouraged to educate the public on genuine issues related to charitable mission. However, electioneering is primarily about the candidate rather than the issue.
Generally permitted activities like voters guides, candidate forums and literature distributions, could be prohibited electioneering. Legitimate issue advocacy could become electioneering if the facts of the case demonstrates bias. However, certain activities by charities, such as contributing money to a political campaign, are clear violations of Federal law.
Independent Sector Election Rules and Resources