An op-ed written under the banner of a non-profit organization appears to violate the ban on electioneering.
In a recent Wichita Eagle op-ed, former state budget director and senior fellow at the Kansas Center for Economic Growth Duane Goosen offered some wise advice to Kansas voters: “Before voting, check out legislative candidates carefully.”1
But he then follows immediately with this: “If a candidate supported Brownback’s fiscal experiment and wants to stay the course, being a financially literate voter requires marking your ballot for somebody else.”
This seems to cross a line, that line being electioneering by non-profit organizations. KCEG itself is not a recognized non-profit organization. Instead, it is a side project of Kansas Action for Children, Inc., which is a section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
In exchange for their tax exempt status, these organizations face certain restrictions. In particular, the Internal Revenue Service says these organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”2
The IRS says voter education activities conducted in a non-partisan manner are allowed. But: “On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.”3
The candidates Goossen recommends voting against, while not named in his op-ed, are a clearly-defined set. Their names appear in news stories, editorials, the Journal of the House of Representatives and other places. This is an example of “oppose a candidate in some manner,” and is where Goossen appears to cross the line from voter education to electioneering.
- Goossen, Duane. Governor, lawmakers flunk financial literacy. Wichita Eagle, May 7, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article76165857.html. ↩
- Internal revenue service. The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations. Available at www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organizations/The-Restriction-of-Political-Campaign-Intervention-by-Section-501(c)(3)-Tax-Exempt-Organizations. ↩
- ibid. ↩