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LWVMA Responds to IRS Proposed Regulation Changes for 501(c)(4) Organizations

Posted Feb 25, 2014

LWVMA sent the following response to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding proposed changes in the regulations that govern what kind of political activity and how much of that activity a Section 501(c)(4) organization can carry out. Comments can be sent to the IRS through this link through February 27.

This spring, Massachusetts League of Women Voters members will go into high schools and register graduating seniors to vote, an important step to adulthood.  In the election to fill Massachusetts statewide executive offices this fall, the Massachusetts League will prepare a voters’ guide on all the candidates and sponsor candidate forums.  All 200 members of the state legislature will be elected in the fall, and Leagues in cities and towns across the state will hold local candidate forums to give voters the chance, often their only chance, to hear and question those candidates.

All of these important and completely nonpartisan voter service activities will be jeopardized if the proposed IRS definition of “candidate-related political activity” includes such efforts to inform voters.  The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, representing 47 local Leagues with 2,650 members, strongly urges the IRS to correct that proposed definition and instead to apply the “facts and circumstances” tests currently used by the IRS for 501(c)(3) organizations to 501(c)(4) organizations as well.  Citizens need for the League of Women Voters to be able to continue to register and inform voters.

At the same time, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts believes the “dark money” system of campaign financing and political activity must be stopped.  The IRS should prohibit “candidate-related political activity” by 501(c)(4) organizations.  Such activity, which includes any form of mass communication that clearly identifies candidates and political parties, can be directed to tax-exempt 527 organizations, which can carry out any activities they want, but with the requirement that the source of funding be disclosed.  Voters deserve to know who is paying for campaign activities.

Truly nonpartisan voter services activities, such as those provided by the League of Women Voters at the national, state and local levels, should be allowed and encouraged.   Activities that support specific candidates and political parties should have to disclose all the sources of their funding.  Our democracy can thrive only when its citizens are informed and aware.

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts urges the IRS to change its regulations to stop the secret “dark money” that pollutes our elections, but to continue to allow the League to conduct its nonpartisan voter service activities.

For the LWVUS response to the IRS click here.