May 27, 2020 •

New IRS Rules: Some Tax-Exempt Groups Don’t Have to Report Contributors

IRS Building, Washington DC

Home of the Internal Revenue Service - by Joshua Doubek

On May 28, new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations allowing certain tax-exempt organizations to refrain from reporting the names and addresses of contributors on their annual reports to the IRS will take effect and be published in the U.S. Federal […]

On May 28, new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations allowing certain tax-exempt organizations to refrain from reporting the names and addresses of contributors on their annual reports to the IRS will take effect and be published in the U.S. Federal Register.

 

This exemption from reporting applies to tax-exempt organizations generally not receiving tax-deductible contributions, such as labor unions, volunteer fire departments, issue-advocacy groups, local chambers of commerce, veterans’ groups, and community service clubs. These organizations are still required to continue to collect and keep the donor information and to make it available to the IRS upon its request. This change does not affect the information required to be reported by charities primarily receiving tax-deductible contributions, such as 501(c)(3) organizations, certain nonexempt private foundations, or 527 political organizations.

 

The Treasury Department and IRS had given three primary reasons for the change: the IRS makes no systematic use of this information collected by these organizations; the policy reduces the risk of inadvertent disclosure or misuse of confidential information; and the policy saves both private and government resources.

 

Previously, the IRS had issued a guidance to this effect, but on July 30, 2019, the IRS guidance limiting these disclosure requirements was set aside by a federal judge. In Bullock v. IRS, the U.S. District Court District of Montana (Great Falls) found the IRS violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not providing notice and allowing a public comment period before the guidance was issued. It predicated this decision by finding the guidance was a legislative rule. Subsequently, on September 6, the IRS issued a notice of a proposed rulemaking and accepted public comment.

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March 18, 2020 •

New Jersey Federal Court Enjoins Donor Disclosure Law

New Jersey Capitol Building

On March 11, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey permanently enjoined the state from enforcing Senate Bill 150. The bill was signed by the governor last June and was scheduled to take effect on October […]

On March 11, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey permanently enjoined the state from enforcing Senate Bill 150.

The bill was signed by the governor last June and was scheduled to take effect on October 15, 2019.

The dark money bill required independent expenditure committees to report contributions in excess of $10,000.

Additionally, the bill required reporting of expenditures in excess of $3,000 to the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

The order does not prevent the Legislature to revisit the issue with new legislation.

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February 12, 2020 •

Maine Bill Expands Restrictions on Contributions from Lobbyists

Maine Capitol Building

Legislative Document 54, sponsored by Senator Justin Chenette, became law without Gov. Janet Mill’s signature. The bill extended the current law prohibiting the governor, members of the Legislature, constitutional officers, and their staff from soliciting and accepting contributions from a […]

Legislative Document 54, sponsored by Senator Justin Chenette, became law without Gov. Janet Mill’s signature.

The bill extended the current law prohibiting the governor, members of the Legislature, constitutional officers, and their staff from soliciting and accepting contributions from a lobbyist or lobbyist associate to all year-round.

Unless the lobbyist or lobbyist associate is eligible to vote on the day of the election in a district where the candidate will appear on the ballot, the lobbyist and lobbyist associate may not contribute to the governor or member of the Legislature when not in legislative session or to a gubernatorial or legislative candidate at any time during the year.

An intentional violation of the prohibition results in a civil penalty up to $1,000 for each violation and the return of the contribution in violation to the contributor.

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January 31, 2020 •

Santa Fe Campaign Disclosure Ordinance Ruled Constitutional

A federal judge in New Mexico ruled on January 30 that a Santa Fe ordinance requiring disclosure of campaign spending more than $250 on a ballot proposition is constitutional. Santa Fe Campaign Code 9-2.6, passed in 2015, states that a […]

A federal judge in New Mexico ruled on January 30 that a Santa Fe ordinance requiring disclosure of campaign spending more than $250 on a ballot proposition is constitutional.

Santa Fe Campaign Code 9-2.6, passed in 2015, states that a person or entity spending $250 or more in support or defeat of a ballot proposition must disclose all expenditures made and contributions received with the city clerk.

Senior U.S. District Court judge Judith C. Herrera’s ruling stems from a 2017 lawsuit brought by nonprofit Rio Grande Foundation.

The suit claimed that disallowing anonymous donations to the foundation was an infringement on free speech.

While the foundation argued that anonymity protects donors from potential harassment from those who disagree with the issues being advocated, the judge found that the disclosure requirements of the ordinance serve substantial governmental interests.

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January 30, 2020 •

Oregon Democrats Seek to Delay Campaign Contribution Limits Until July 2021

Oregon State Capitol Building

House Democrats introduced a bill putting the 2006 voter approved campaign contribution limits on hold until at least July 2021. House Bill 4124 would give lawmakers more time to pass new campaign contribution limits to replace those approved by voters. […]

House Democrats introduced a bill putting the 2006 voter approved campaign contribution limits on hold until at least July 2021.

House Bill 4124 would give lawmakers more time to pass new campaign contribution limits to replace those approved by voters.

The bill would allow the Legislature to appoint a task force to study campaign finance and make recommendations on how to best establish effective political contribution limits.

Currently, Oregon has no campaign contribution limits because courts have repeatedly struck down or suspended them, including the initiative voters passed almost two decades ago.

The Oregon Supreme Court is expected to rule on Multnomah County’s voter approved campaign finance limits at some point this year.

A ruling in favor of the campaign finance limits would likely revive statewide donation caps as well.

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January 30, 2020 •

Oakland Public Ethics Commission to Consider Adjusting Contribution Limits

The Public Ethics Commission will consider annual adjustments to the contribution limits at their regular meeting next week. Commission staff will present an updated list of the campaign contribution limits and expenditure ceiling amounts, as adjusted according to the increase […]

The Public Ethics Commission will consider annual adjustments to the contribution limits at their regular meeting next week.

Commission staff will present an updated list of the campaign contribution limits and expenditure ceiling amounts, as adjusted according to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as required by the Oakland Campaign Finance Reform Act.

The limitations on contributions from persons to candidates who adopt the voluntary expenditure ceiling will increase to $900 per election.

If approved, the adjusted limits will be in effect for the 2020 elections.

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January 30, 2020 •

Missouri Contributions Limits Increased for Legislative Candidates

Missouri Capitol Building

The Missouri Ethics Commission increased contribution limits for state House and Senate candidates. The per election limits have increased from $2,000 to $2,046 for House candidates and from $2,500 to $2,559 for Senate candidates. The inflationary adjustments are the first […]

The Missouri Ethics Commission increased contribution limits for state House and Senate candidates.

The per election limits have increased from $2,000 to $2,046 for House candidates and from $2,500 to $2,559 for Senate candidates.

The inflationary adjustments are the first under a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018.

The $5 lobbyist gift limit for members of the General Assembly remains unchanged.

There are several bills pending in the House and Senate that would lower contribution limits.

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November 26, 2019 •

Supreme Court Questions Alaska Contribution Limit

U.S. Supreme Court Building

United States Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court is raising doubts about Alaska’s $500-a-year limit on contributions to political candidates. The justices are ordering a lower court to take a new look at the issue. The court says in an unsigned opinion on Monday […]

The U.S. Supreme Court is raising doubts about Alaska’s $500-a-year limit on contributions to political candidates.

The justices are ordering a lower court to take a new look at the issue.

The court says in an unsigned opinion on Monday that federal judges who rejected a challenge to the contribution cap did not take into account a 2006 high court ruling.

The 2006 ruling invalidated low-dollar limits on political contributions in Vermont.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a separate opinion expressing that Alaska’s reliance on the energy industry may make the state unusually vulnerable to political corruption and justify the low limits.

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May 10, 2019 •

Federal Judge Rules South Dakota Initiated Measure 24 Unconstitutional

U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann struck down a ban on out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees recently passed by voters. Kornmann found Initiated Measure 24 unconstitutional because it violates First Amendment rights to engage in political speech. Additionally, Kornmann said […]

U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann struck down a ban on out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees recently passed by voters.

Kornmann found Initiated Measure 24 unconstitutional because it violates First Amendment rights to engage in political speech.

Additionally, Kornmann said the measure violates the Commerce Clause by interfering with the free flow of money between persons from another state and South Dakota committees.

The ruling is a permanent injunction that stops the planned implementation on July 1.

The state must now determine if it will appeal the decision to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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April 17, 2019 •

Los Angeles City Council Working Towards Banning Developer Donations

The Los Angeles City Council rules committee voted to have the city attorney draft two versions of a proposed ban on donations to city officials from developers seeking approval for their building projects.

Version one would directly follow the Ethics Commission’s recommendation to restrict non-individuals and developers from making political contributions. The restriction would apply from the date the project application is filed until 12 months after the final resolution of the application.

Version two would ban donations from any person or entity pursuing or currently working on large development projects with the city.

Both proposals would ban elected officials from soliciting behested payments from restricted sources, and lower the disclosure threshold for behested payments to $1,000 per payor per year.

Additionally, the proposals would require the disclosure of behested payments to identify whether the payor is a lobbyist, lobbyist firm, bidder, contractor, or developer.

These drafts are expected to be presented to the full City Council within the next few weeks.

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September 28, 2017 •

Today, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued a Legal Advisory memo explicitly stating the OGE’s view anonymous contributions to legal defense funds of federal employees are prohibited. Legal Advisory LA-17-10 specifically refers to OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 93×21 (1993), […]

Today, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued a Legal Advisory memo explicitly stating the OGE’s view anonymous contributions to legal defense funds of federal employees are prohibited.

Legal Advisory LA-17-10 specifically refers to OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 93×21 (1993), which found employees who received anonymous donations would “be unable to favor the anonymous donors.” The new Legal Advisory memo acknowledges that shortly after the Informal Advisory Opinion was issued, the agency began “advising, and is continuing to advise, that the instruments establishing legal defense funds include a clause stating that ‘contributions shall not be accepted from anonymous sources.’”

The new memo reiterates the OGE’s position given in an interview by the head of the OGE with Politico earlier this month. The interview was made in reaction to an OGE note on the 1993 opinion that had been changed earlier this year to say the opinion’s original applicability had not changed.

Critics of the note change had said it opened the door up to lobbyists and other prohibited sources funding legal defenses for employees currently working in the White House.

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September 11, 2017 •

Campaign Finance Riders in House Financial Services Appropriations Bill

Several provisions added last week to the House Financial Services appropriations bill would alter some federal campaign laws. The legislation would prevent some charitable 501(c)(3) organizations such as churches from losing their tax-exempt status for making contributions to candidates. The […]

Several provisions added last week to the House Financial Services appropriations bill would alter some federal campaign laws.

The legislation would prevent some charitable 501(c)(3) organizations such as churches from losing their tax-exempt status for making contributions to candidates. The bill would also allow corporations greater latitude in soliciting employees to contribute to political action committees.

The riders to the bill also include provisions prohibiting the IRS from enacting rules governing political activity and prohibiting the SEC from implementing rules requiring corporations to report to its shareholders a corporation’s political campaign activities.

A further change to campaign finance law in the appropriation bill would bar the use of funds to recommend or require any entity submitting an offer for a federal contract to disclose specified political contributions as a condition of submitting the offer.

The appropriations and other finance bills are expected to be debated this and next week in the House.

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February 20, 2017 •

Missouri Lawmakers Want Future Governors to Disclose Details of Inaugural Contributions

Missouri House Democrats have introduced a bill to require future governors to publicly disclose donations for gubernatorial inauguration activities. Lawmakers hope to eliminate the appearance of corruption by allowing Missourians to see how much money corporations and lobbyists donate to […]

Missouri CapitolMissouri House Democrats have introduced a bill to require future governors to publicly disclose donations for gubernatorial inauguration activities.

Lawmakers hope to eliminate the appearance of corruption by allowing Missourians to see how much money corporations and lobbyists donate to fund inaugural events.

Recently, Gov. Eric Greitens issued a list of benefactors who contributed to his inaugural celebration but refused to confirm how much was contributed by each donor and how much money was actually spent.

He formed a nonprofit to raise money for the inauguration and the contributions, therefore, were not subject to state campaign finance laws.

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February 8, 2017 •

Tennessee Adjusts Contribution Limits for 2017-2018 Elections

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance recently published updated contribution limits for 2017 and 2018 elections. The limits are adjusted in every odd-numbered year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index. Individuals may now contribute $4,000 per election to […]

tn-sealThe Tennessee Registry of Election Finance recently published updated contribution limits for 2017 and 2018 elections. The limits are adjusted in every odd-numbered year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Individuals may now contribute $4,000 per election to statewide candidates. The limit for individuals contributing to local, state legislative, or other state candidates remains unchanged.

PACs may contribute $7,800 per election to local candidates and to candidates for state House, criminal court judge, circuit court judge, chancellor, probate court judge, district attorney general, or public defender. They may contribute $11,800 per election to statewide candidates and to candidates for state Senate. The aggregate PAC limit for all non-statewide elections was increased to $118,100.

Primary and general elections are considered separate elections for the purpose of campaign contribution limits.

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