On March 8, 2017, the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers' Board of Trustees approved that CNJG would take an official position opposing the repeal of the Johnson Amendment by signing on to the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship.” This effort is being led by several national philanthropy and nonprofit serving organizations, including the National Council of Nonprofits and the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. Nonpartisanship is a cornerstone principle that has strengthened the public’s trust of the charitable and philanthropic community. Yet the longstanding legal protection (known as the Johnson Amendment) that keeps 501(c)(3) organizations away from the partisan politics of supporting or opposing candidates for office is under imminent threat. One bill outright repealing the 1954 legislation has been proposed, while 2 other proposed bills weaken the legislation.
If the Johnson Amendment were repealed, 501(c)(3) organizations could become entities that are given tax-deductible donations for the purpose of participating in the electoral process, and donors would be completely shielded from disclosure—hindering transparency. Because donors could deduct any contributions, as well as shield their donations from disclosure, it would create an incentive for people to switch from giving money to PACs and super PACs (which are required to identify their donors) to 501(c)(3)s. Furthermore, foundation CEOs, staffs and boards could find themselves feeling pressured to not only endorse political candidates at local, state and federal levels but to support them financially, draining resources that would otherwise be going to charitable purposes.
The Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship, signed by nearly 4,500 organizations from every state and every segment of the charitable and foundation communities, makes a strong statement in support of nonpartisanship and urges those who have vowed to repeal or weaken this vital protection to leave existing law in place for nonprofit organizations and the people they serve. On April 5, 2017 the letter was sent to Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Leader Nancy Pelosi, Leader Charles Schumer, Chairman Kevin Brady, Chairman Orrin Hatch, Ranking Member Richard Neal, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, released to the Press, and delivered electronically by the national coalition leaders to all U.S. Senators and Representatives. The Council also discussed this issue with our NJ Representatives and Senators during our recent Foundations on the Hill visits.