Nonprofit Groups and Partisan Politics

November 14, 2014 • Volume 24, Issue 41
Is tighter regulation needed?
By Christina L. Lyons


A campaign worker distributes fliers (Getty Images/The Denver Post/R. J. Sangosti)
A campaign worker distributes fliers in Loveland, Colo., before the November elections for the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. U.S. laws permit many nonprofit groups, both liberal and conservative, to supply unlimited funds for political advertising from donors who do not have to be identified. (Getty Images/The Denver Post/R. J. Sangosti)

Debate over the role of nonprofits in electoral politics intensified recently when the IRS scrutinized tax-exempt groups and their political activity. The IRS action followed Federal Election Commission (FEC) rulings on campaign expenditures and court decisions such as the Supreme Court's landmark 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC. That ruling permitted unlimited spending on partisan political advertising by corporations, labor unions and individuals. The government has long exempted charities, churches, social welfare groups and other nonprofit organizations from income taxes, while restricting them from engaging in partisan political activity. Watchdog groups say reforms are needed to keep nonprofits, especially those that do not have to disclose the names of donors, from exerting undue influence in elections. But some nonprofits say such regulation would trample free speech rights.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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May 26, 2023  Congressional Investigations
Jan. 06, 2023  Dark Money
Mar. 25, 2022  The Democrats' Future
Apr. 30, 2021  The GOP's Future
Oct. 13, 2017  Future of the Democratic Party
Sep. 09, 2016  Populism and Party Politics
Nov. 14, 2014  Nonprofit Groups and Partisan Politics
Oct. 24, 2014  Future of the GOP
Feb. 28, 2014  Polarization in America
Mar. 19, 2010  Tea Party Movement Updated
Mar. 20, 2009  Future of the GOP
Jun. 08, 2007  Democrats in Congress
Apr. 30, 2004  The Partisan Divide
Dec. 22, 1995  Third-Party Prospects
Jan. 11, 1985  Post-1984 Political Landscape
Nov. 09, 1984  Democratic Revival in South America
Sep. 14, 1984  Election 1984
Dec. 19, 1980  Future of the Democratic Party
Sep. 29, 1978  New Right in American Politics
Jan. 04, 1974  Future of Conservatism
May 03, 1972  The New Populism
Feb. 02, 1956  Foreign Policy in Political Campaigns
Dec. 22, 1954  Divided Government
Aug. 04, 1952  Two-Party System
Jun. 06, 1952  Party Platforms
Sep. 05, 1951  Southern Democrats and the 1952 Election
Oct. 06, 1948  Voting in 1948
Aug. 27, 1948  Republicans and Foreign Policy
Jul. 16, 1947  Third Party Movements
Aug. 22, 1940  Political Realignments
Jan. 13, 1938  The G. O. P. and the Solid South
Jul. 22, 1936  Third Party Movements in American Politics
Jul. 07, 1936  The Monopoly Issue in Party Politics
Nov. 12, 1935  Party Platforms and the 1936 Campaign
May 18, 1934  Political Trends and New Party Movements
Jan. 13, 1932  National Party Platforms, 1832–1932
May 16, 1928  Third Party Movements
Jan. 21, 1928  Major Party Platforms 1924–1928
Nov. 14, 1924  The Election and the Third Party
Sep. 05, 1924  Party Claims and Past Political Complexion of the States
Jun. 25, 1924  Third Party Platforms
Jun. 18, 1924  Thrid Parties: Past and Prospective
Campaign Finance
Campaigns and Elections
Conservatism and Liberalism
Lobbying and Special Interests
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Supreme Court History and Decisions
Voting and Suffrage