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What Election Results Mean for the Johnson Amendment

What Election Results Mean for the Johnson Amendment

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

No matter which networks you watched on election night or how late you stayed up, odds are you didn’t hear anything about the impact the voting results portend for one issue of vital important to CNJG members and others in the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

I’m referring, of course, to the Johnson Amendment. For those who might be new to the sector or the issue, a little background: The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the federal tax code that bans charitable nonprofits from making political contributions or in other ways getting involved in election campaigns or partisan politics. Put another way, the Amendment protects nonprofits, from — as the National Council of Nonprofits says, “being hounded by politicians, political operatives, and paid political consultants seeking political endorsements, financial contributions, and more.”

The Amendment, named for its sponsor, then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (later president) was adopted in 1954 without controversy.

Over the past decade or so, though, numerous attempts have been made to repeal the Amendment by people and organizations who say it restricts religious freedom. And in recent years, bills have been introduced and riders have been added to unrelated legislation with the aim of repealing or weakening the Johnson Amendment.

Fast forward to November 6: the sponsor of the Johnson Amendment repeal measure attached to the House appropriations bill lost his reelection campaign, as did other members of the House Appropriations Committee who supported repeal.

Further, the National Council of Nonprofits, in a post-election assessment, predicted, “There is no reason to think that the new House majority will change its position on this fundamental issue.” This is good news for CNJG and our colleagues throughout the philanthropic and nonprofit sector who have been working for the last several to safeguard the Johnson Amendment.

And, of course, this all will be fodder for interesting discussions at Foundations on the Hill in March, when the Council will welcome four new House members from New Jersey.

Three months before that annual Washington trip, CNJG hosts another signature event: The Annual Meeting and Holiday Luncheon. We’re putting together a dynamic panel to share strategies for extending the values that guide your grantmaking into all aspects of operations and activities. The event will be instructive and thought-provoking and, of course, also will offer the opportunity to catch up with colleagues from across the state. Register HERE so we can be sure to save a place for you.

Two other things — one looking back and the other ahead.

If you didn’t attend the November 7 CNJG Investment Forum for Foundations and Endowments, you missed a great day. The assemblage of financial experts and advisors offered nonprofit money managers advice and guidance that was as accessible as it was voluminous. I want to thank the 16 sponsors of the event for their generous support, and the staff and board of CNJG for months of behind-the-scenes work that made this logistical undertaking look a lot easier than it really was.

And, looking ahead: CNJG members either received or soon will get their annual dues renewal letter in the mail. I hope you’ll see this notice as a time to reflect on a year of valuable events, convenings, assistance, and learning that the Council will try hard to surpass in 2019. We’re glad to have you as members, and hope you’ll be back. If this was a year where you didn’t participate as much as you’d have liked, let us know what we can do to help the benefits of CNJG membership be more relevant. See you December 14.

Jon Shure, Interim President/CEO
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers