Advocacy Update from Alliance for Justice

With this newsletter, Alliance for Justice keeps you informed about new resources for nonprofits and foundations, upcoming workshops and events, and recent news affecting nonprofits engaged in advocacy.

In this Issue:

Question of the Week
Question: Our 501(c)(3) public charity would like to run an ad urging voters to oppose a ballot initiative to limit access to reproductive health services in our state. If we use the 501(h) expenditure test to measure our lobbying, would we count this activity as grassroots or direct lobbying?

Answer: Organizations that use the 501(h) election would count the costs for an ad urging voters to oppose a ballot initiative as direct lobbying. [For more information, see AFJ’s fact sheet on ballot initiatives and our longer guides for nonprofits on ballot initiatives and lobbying.]

New Recordkeeping Resource for Nonprofits!
Keeping Track: A Guide to Recordkeeping for Advocacy Charities

AFJ’s new guide, “Keeping Track,” is designed to help the staff, officers, and board members track the lobbying activities of nonprofit organizations and report those activities to the IRS. The guide contains sample forms, and multiple options for tracking staff time, overhead expenses, and direct costs. Also check out the “Top Five Tips” for measuring lobbying from national experts. Download the free PDF here: Keeping Track: A Guide to Recordkeeping for Advocacy Charities (PDF)

AFJ Submits Comments on Senate DISCLOSE Act
AFJ weighed in on U.S. Senate bill 2219, the DISCLOSE Act, sharing our concern that new reporting requirements would severely constrain nonprofit advocacy on public policy. Read AFJ’s statement here.
Call to Community Organizers
Input requested for AFJ’s “Resources for Evaluating Community Organizing”

We need your ideas about evaluation materials we should add to Resources for Evaluating Community Organizing (RECO)–our online compendium of resources on the art of evaluating community organizing. Your suggestions, by April 27, for new items to add will continue to make this a true living library. Examples of RECO Resources include:

If you have resources to add to the compendium, please send them to Julia Kselman (Julia@afj.org) or Tracy George (tracy@afj.org) by April 27, 2012. We look forward to hearing from you!

News Roundup
Muddying Election Rules, the Lobbyist’s Lobby

News coming from both the courts and Congress in the past week or so is evidence of the intense tug-of-war over disclosure rules for tax-exempt organizations. In the case of Van Hollen v. FEC, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the FEC’s rules for disclosing electioneering communications were too narrow and undermined the McCain-Feingold law. In the words of Roll Call reporter Eliza Newlin Carney, the ruling “muddies the waters further,” leaving organizations involved in political campaigns with unclear guidance about reporting.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators held a hearing on the DISCLOSE Act, which would increase reporting requirements for campaign-related expenditures. No Senate vote has been scheduled yet on the legislation.

Last week, the Supreme Court announced it would revisit the Citizens United decision in considering a case from Montana about corporate free speech. In other Citizens United news, 11 attorneys general called on Congress to reverse the 2010 ruling by amending “the Constitution to limit First Amendment protections to natural persons, not corporations.”

First it was the American Bar Association, then Public Citizen, and now the leading lobbyists’ association is suggesting changes to federal lobbying rules. The American League of Lobbyists is proposing changes that would increase the number of lobbyists required to register and report their activities. They are hoping Congress will endorse the plan.

From Our Blog
Defending Against a Political Sting

Is your organization prepared for a political sting operation? Last week’s New York Times reported on a botched plan to infiltrate progressive groups. Though conservative activist John M. Howting failed in his efforts in this case, they’re a reminder that nonprofit groups should be wary of political ambushes by James O’Keefe-style imitators. Read more.

Workshops & Events

Lobbying Rules for Nonprofits (4/12/12)

This one-hour online session begins at 2:00 p.m. (ET) and will explain the federal laws governing 501(c)(3) lobbying, including how to calculate your lobbying limits under the insubstantial part test and the 501(h) expenditure test, definitions for direct and grassroots lobbying, exemptions to the definition of lobbying, and the application of these rules to ballot measure activities. » Register here!

Election Related Activities for Nonprofits (4/17/12)

This one-hour online session will begin at 2:00 p.m. (ET) and covers the federal tax rules regarding electoral activities for 501(c)(3)s, including voter registration drives, candidate questionnaires, candidate forums, and legislative scorecards. » Register here!

California Ballot Measures (4/19/12)

This one-hour online session begins at 11:00 a.m. (PT) and describes the federal tax laws that impact ballot measure advocacy by both 501(c)(3) public charities and 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations. It also addresses how the California ballot-measure disclosure laws may impact an organization’s proposed activities.

We will describe a number of activities an organization can do without triggering disclosure under California law as well as provide examples of the activities that will require an organization to file campaign disclosure reports; a discussion of when and how to file the required reports; and how a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) can safely raise money for work on ballot measures. » Register here!

California Lobbying Disclosure (4/26/12)

Nonprofits can safely, legally, and effectively engage in state-level advocacy and lobbying work in California, but they need to understand what rules apply to their lobbying activities under California state law in addition to federal tax law.

This one-hour online session begins at 11:00am (PT) and is designed for all tax-exempt organizations. The workshop will  focus on California law and explain when an organization (or its employees) needs to start filing California lobbying disclosure reports, define what activities are considered “lobbying” under California state law, as well as explain the restrictions on organizations or individuals that lobby in California. Join us for a discussion on the California lobbying disclosure requirements and what nonprofits should know to easily comply. » Register here! 

Participants in our online workshops are also eligible to purchase our corresponding publications for half price. You can order these publications by calling Maria Clayton at (202) 822-6070.

Engage with our staff! Send us messages via our many social networking sites, comment on AFJ’s blogs and be sure to tell your friends about our work.

 

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