The votes are in! The IRS received 143,764 comments in response to the proposed regulations to guide 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations regarding political activities that might not be considered to be promoting social welfare.
If you think the IRS’s proposed regulations won, think again. From the left, right, center, and those of no politics at all, the proposed regulations were thoroughly bludgeoned in most of the comments, not just for what they would mean for 501(c)(4)s, but more importantly for their unintended impacts on 501(c)(3)s.
That was the powerful point raised by the National Council of Nonprofits in its comments:
“The proposed definition of ‘campaign-related political activity’ for 501(c)(4) organizations goes too far by including both partisan and nonpartisan election-related activities such as voter guides, candidate forums, and voter registration activities. These activities, when done on a nonpartisan basis, are at the core of the democracy initiatives of many charitable nonprofits. Having different standards for 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofits and 501(c)(4) organizations will be too confusing, especially given that, as the Notice admits, the IRS has generally applied the same factors to the two types of organizations. By switching the rules on 501(c)(4) organizations, people in the field will be confused as to whether the new standard will apply to 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofits as well. The proposed regulations would thus have a chilling effect on the important role that charitable nonprofits play by blurring the lines and confusing the public, while also discouraging the support of funders who seek to promote civic engagement through nonpartisan voter engagement.”