In a letter sent on March 1, 2018, to members of Congress, Free Speech For People joined 24 reform groups and watchdogs to strongly urge members to oppose all campaign finance riders from being included in the final FY18 Omnibus Appropriations legislation.
One potential rider would demolish the Johnson amendment, which prevents 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations from engaging in campaign activities. More than 5,500 charitable nonprofits, religious organizations, and foundations signed a letter opposing this rider.
According to the letter from charitable groups:
Nonpartisanship is a cornerstone principle that has strengthened the public’s trust of the charitable community. In exchange for enjoying tax-exempt status and the ability to receive tax-deductible contributions, 501(c)(3) organizations – charitable nonprofits, including religious congregations, and foundations – agree to not engage in “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
That provision of law protects the integrity and independence of charitable nonprofits and foundations. It shields the entire 501(c)(3) community against the rancor of partisan politics so the charitable community can be a safe haven where individuals of all beliefs come together to solve community problems free from partisan divisions.
More than 4,300 faith leaders, representing every major religion, signed another letter opposing this rider.
Another potential rider would gut the limit on political party spending coordinated with a candidate – a limit which “was upheld by the Supreme Court as necessary to prevent donors from using the political parties to massively circumvent the limits on the amount they could give directly to candidates,” according to the letter.
The letter further stated:
In the last Congress, a campaign finance rider was enacted to prevent the SEC from finalizing regulations which would require public corporations to disclose their campaign activities to shareholders. This year’s draft version of the SEC rider would go even further and prevent the SEC from even studying such a rule.
The SEC has a vital role to play in ensuring corporate transparency for shareholders. More than 1.2 million investors and members of the public petitioned the SEC to create a rule requiring uniform corporate political disclosure – the most signers to a petition in SEC history.
The letter also noted another very damaging campaign finance rider that would prevent the IRS from providing new regulations for nonprofits with clear guidance about their campaign activities. According to the letter:
The rider would also prevent the public from obtaining information about secret contributions spent in support of campaigns – information that citizens have a right to know. In preventing new IRS regulations, Congress is leaving in place a chronically broken IRS definition of “political campaign intervention” that allows those willing to game the system to pour secret money into our elections.
Another unacceptable rider would “prevent any requirement for federal contractors to disclose their political spending.” According to the letter, “Requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending protects the federal contracting process by assuring the public that their tax dollars are not being used to reward contractors in return for campaign finance support.”
The letter concluded:
Any effort to rewrite the nation’s campaign finance laws or to restrict related campaign finance measures should be done by regular order through the legislative process. This should not be done through the back-door misuse of the appropriations process that prevents members of Congress from voting on the specific provisions.
We strongly urge you to oppose the inclusion of any campaign finance riders in the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
Find the full text of the letter here.