Websites & Electioneering
The IRS has released a memorandum for its agents on how to analyze whether websites of 501(c)(3) organizations are being used for prohibited political campaign activity. The crux of the matter is electioneering and whether a link from a nonprofit’s website to another website is supporting or opposing a particular political candidate.
As you know, 501(c)(3)s are barred from electioneering (opposing or supporting a candidate for office). (They are not, however, barred from conducting voter registration drives, issue advocacy, and the like.)
In February the IRS warned nonprofits about linking to websites that may be considered partisan if the links indicate support or opposition for candidates. The IRS will continue to rely on the “facts and circumstances” test. According to OMB Watch, “The memo indicated that web links may be considered prohibited intervention in elections, depending on their context, the number of clicks between a site and a partisan message on the linked site, and whether an organization has a position on an issue and links to candidates’ positions.”
As a general matter, NPCC suggests an organization not link to another website that might be viewed as directly or indirectly supporting or opposing a candidate (such as by linking to another site that does support or oppose a candidate), unless the organization has carefully analyzed its own “facts and circumstances” in light of the IRS advice and concluded that linking is okay.
To read more: OMB Watch has an article on the subject at www.ombwatch.org/article/blogs/entry/5231/34, Contribute has an article at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25838144, and the IRS memorandum is at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/internetfielddirective072808.pdf.
This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of New York Nonprofits, the monthly publication of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, Inc. www.npccny.org