Tuesday, December 3, 2013

IRS Move Could Restrict Think Tank Politicking

The Obama Administration last week moved to limit the role that certain non-profit groups play in politics, a move that could severely limit the role that the lobbying arm of think tanks can play in elections.
The proposal by the Treasury Department and the IRS would curtail a broad array of campaign activities by tax-exempt organizations set up under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Such groups currently face few clear-cut rules regarding their campaign activities, other than that they can't exist "primarily" to influence elections.
Tuesday's proposal would better define what types of activities are considered political and which are not, for the purposes of determining whether a nonprofit is primarily focused on influencing campaigns.
The process of completing the new regulations will be highly controversial and could take months, officials from the Treasury Department said. New rules will likely not be in place until after the 2014 elections.
Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the lobbying arms of think tanks, which operate as 501(c)(4) organizations.  Think tanks with advocacy (i.e., lobbying) arms include:
  • Heritage Foundation: Heritage Action for America
  • Center for American Progress: Center for American Progress Action Fund
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute: Freedom Action
  • Open Society Foundations: Open Society Policy Center
Here is more about the proposed rules from the National Law Review.  Here is guidance from the Treasury Department.