Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Nonprofits likely to come under fire as Senate discovers ‘black money’

Fireworks are likely to be produced at a Senate hearing on Wednesday as Republicans and Democrats play the role of foundations and nonprofits in the elections.

The Senate Finance Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight gives no details of the hearing beyond the title “Law and Enforcement Governing the Political Activities of Tax Exempt Entities.” Even testifying witnesses are unsure of its focus. It appears that subcommittee chairman Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse wants to raise concerns about “black money” flowing through 501(c)(4) nonprofits, but Republicans plan to expand the scope of the hearing. So that they can be seen as illegal political activities. 501(c)(3) Charities and Foundations.

Contributions to 501(c)(4) social-welfare organizations, unlike 501(c)(3) charities, are not tax deductible, and as a result, those organizations are allowed to engage in a wide range of political activities.

One of the witnesses at the hearing, N. M. Ravel, former chair of the United States Federal Elections Commission who now teaches at the University of California at Berkeley’s Law School, said she expressed her concerns about the movement of 501(c) funds. Will discuss )(4) Less monitoring or public awareness of the source of those funds, from organizations to political-action committees.

“There is a lack of accountability that is problematic,” Ravel said.

However, the witnesses who were invited to testify by the Republican committee had a very different point of view, saying that focusing on fundraising for political-action committees was short-sighted when, in their view, actual abuse was something. Getting on 501(c)(3). Nonprofits and foundations.

Scott Walter, president of the Capital Research Center, a conservative group that tracks philanthropy and political charities, said he was told there was no specific law attached to the hearing. Walter said he intends to make the case that partisan activities by 501(c)(3) charities crossing the line are a much bigger problem than 501(c)(4) “black money”, on which Whitehouse wants to focus.

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He pointed to the $400 million commitment of Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan during the last election cycle to promote electoral access and integrity. Walter said the majority of those funds were spent in heavily Democratic districts, which violates the federal prohibition against tax-deductible charitable contributions that “have the intention or effect of benefiting a candidate or party. “

Groups such as the New Venture Fund have drawn similar scrutiny from conservatives; It pursues a wide range of progressive policies in areas such as climate change and gender equality, and it draws regularly from people such as Jeff Bezos, Mackenzie Scott, Melinda French Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and foundations such as Ford and MacArthur. Receives great gifts from

Arabella Advisors, a for-profit consulting firm that provides advice to wealthy donors and foundations, has also attracted the ire of conservatives, who say it offers its nonprofit clients the benefits of tax-free charities. Helping to overcome the limits of acceptable activities for Contribution.

Several states across the country have sought to ban outside groups from contributing money to the administration of local elections.

Brad Smith, founder of the Institute for Free Speech, who will testify at the hearing at the invitation of Republicans, said he felt Democrats were exaggerating the problems caused by the flow of black money into political-action committees, while this Ignoring the fact that many 501(c)(3) charities engage in a variety of activities that could affect elections or policy. For example, charities are allowed to conduct voter-registration campaigns that target certain areas, do limited amounts of lobbying, and do advocacy work to raise the profile of certain issues, Smith said.

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“I’m very cynical about the hearing because I find the hearing somewhat cynical,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, those on the left have taken aim at Charles Koch, a longtime supporter of the conservative charity. Concerns from the left and right have prompted policymakers to make clear rules about how charitable organizations can use their money when it comes to election-related activities.

Another witness called to testify is Philip Hackney of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, who has questioned whether private foundations should retain their preferred tax status because of what he sees as a widespread abuse of that privilege.

Whitehouse is a leading advocate of legislation that would require organizations that spend money on elections, including 501(c)(4) groups and political-action committees, to disclose donors who gave $10,000 or more during the election cycle. The Whitehouse has also expressed concerns about the use of “black money” to groom and promote conservative candidates for federal judgeship, including the Supreme Court.

John Thune of South Dakota, the top Republican in the Whitehouse office and Senate subcommittee, did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment on the hearing.


This article was provided by Chronicle of Philanthropy to The Associated Press. Dan Parks is the Chronicle’s senior editor. Email: [email protected] The Associated Press and Chronicle receive support from the Lilly Endowment for its coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits. Associated Press and Chronicle are solely responsible for all content. For all of Associated Press’s philanthropy coverage, visit,


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