National Consumers League

Do big changes lie ahead for nonprofit organizations?

A message from our development team. America's nonprofit organizations, including the National Consumers League, are caught on the horns of a dilemma. Current tax law permits NCL and all 501(c)(3), meaning tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations to advocate for policy changes, provided that advocacy doesn't supplant their charitable purpose. We're prohibited from endorsing candidates for public office.

Despite occasional missteps, these laws and regulations have worked pretty well. There were howls of protest, however, when word leaked out that the IRS was making a clumsy attempt to identify Tea Party-related organizations that might not qualify for tax-exempt status. Now comes a report from the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations (CAPRO), established by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, that recommends eliminating the ban on political speech by charities like NCL and religious organizations, including churches. Preachers could endorse political candidates from the pulpit, in other words. Diana Aviv, head of Independent Sector, the largest association of national nonprofit organizations, spoke out forcefully against the CAPRO recommendations, and the Bright Lines Project (BLP), spearheaded by the Center for Effective Government, is developing its own recommendations to clarify what charitable organizations may do and say in nonpartisan (meaning, mainly, non-electoral) activities. It's a safe bet that freeing evangelical preachers to endorse candidates on Sunday morning will not be on the BLP's recommendations list.