The efforts to shine daylight onto “dark money” political groups by Sen. Billig and Council President Stuckart are commendable for promoting transparency in Washington state’s elections. However, there is a larger federal issue that requires immediate attention by transparency proponents. Certain Republican leaders are working to weaken or remove the Johnson Amendment from the federal tax code. The Johnson Amendment mandates tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organizations - the vast majority of nonprofits - to remain nonpartisan.
Nonpartisanship enables nonprofit organizations to focus on their missions instead of politics; prevents politics from keeping service seekers away; and provides trust for community members that their tax deductible donations will be used for services.
We firmly believe that nonprofits should raise their voices to advocate on issues legislation impacting the communities they serve. Nonprofits have relevant expertise to help solve the opioid crisis, invest wisely in early childhood programs and play a role in many other policy areas.
But 501(c)(3) charitable organizations need to stay out of electoral politics — that is, endorsing candidates for public office.
The Johnson Amendment benefits our communities, and we urge Washington state’s federal delegation to make maintaining the Johnson Amendment a priority in the tax reform debate.
Laura Pierce, Washington Nonprofits, The State Association for All Nonprofits in Washington State