ARCHIVED: Opposition to the Anti-Advocacy Provisions of H.R. 3485, the Campaign Finance and Election Integrity Act

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March 26, 1998

Dear Representative:

Since its introduction last week, H.R. 3485, the Campaign Reform and Election Integrity Act, sponsored by Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA), has raised deep concerns for the nonprofit community. The bill, which is expected to reach the House floor very soon, possibly under the suspension calendar, contains provisions that would harm the nonprofit community's participation in public policy matters. Title I of the bill would restrict the ability of nonprofits to engage in public policy matters, such as commenting on federal regulations or educating the public about federal laws and regulations. We strongly oppose these restrictions and urge you to oppose any legislation that contains such provisions.

Our last correspondence included some 300 nonprofit organizations from around the country who are equally concerned with this issue. Over the last 48 hours, more than 100 additional organizations have contacted us about opposing Title I of H.R. 3485. The enclosed list reflects an increasing concern throughout the nonprofit sector as our list of organizations opposing the anti-advocacy provision has grown to more than 400 groups and many more have directly contacted Congress.

Title I of the Thomas bill contains a provision that requires nonprofit organizations to annually seek consent from their members before they can use their funds for "political activity." Nonprofits would be required to send an annual notice to their members indicating how much they expect to spend on political activities in the forthcoming year. Members would then "vote" whether they want their dues or contributions to be used for such activities. The amount of dues money represented (on a pro rata share) by those voting in the negative would be deducted from the overall amount designated by the nonprofit organization for political activities. It would be illegal -- and enforceable by the Federal Election Commission -- to exceed the amount permitted for political activities.

Tax law already prohibits America's charities from electioneering. Furthermore, nonprofits are already regulated regarding the amount of lobbying that they can do under the tax code. Most are required to report to the IRS annually about lobbying expenditures -- and these reports are available to the public.

The bill's anti-advocacy provision raises significant concerns for the nonprofit sector. It:

  • Would undermine the ability of charities across the country to speak out on public policy matters. Nonprofit organizations work in partnership with government to deliver services throughout the country. The definition of "political activity" in H.R. 3485 goes far beyond electioneering and would substantially burden the ability of nonprofits to communicate directly with federal government agencies and with Congress to discuss public policy matters.In fact, both Congress and government agencies seek the input of nonprofits on policy matters. Nonprofits play a vital role in the development of regulatory matters ranging from workplace to environmental protections, from consumer to health safeguards, and from civil rights to education. Title I of H.R. 3485 would unnecessarily restrict nonprofit participation in the development of good public policy.


  • Establishes an artificial and restrictive cap on expenditures for "political activity." The bill requires nonprofits to establish an annual cap for political activity expenditures and restricts nonprofits from exceeding the cap. This cap is enforceable regardless of public policy matters that develop during the year. It may mean that nonprofits cannot discuss policy issues unless they planned on it a year in advance.
  • Creates an unfair administrative burden on nonprofits. The definition of "political activity" in the Thomas bill is different than the IRS definition of "lobbying." This means that charities will need to keep two sets of records, one for the IRS and one for the FEC, and report to two agencies. It also means that both the IRS and the FEC would now be involved in overseeing nonprofit public policy activities.
  • Forces nonprofits to divert resources from providing direct services to communities. Rather than using staff time to educate youth on the dangers of drunk driving and the law, groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving would have to expend staff time and money keeping two sets of books for the FEC and the IRS.
  • Significantly broadens the type of "political activities" that are now regulated by the federal government. All nonprofits organized under 501 of the tax code are covered by this provision. 501(c)(3) organizations are currently prohibited from electioneering. But this provision goes beyond electioneering issues to cover positions taken on federal laws and regulations and education about such matters. The tax code has limits on charitable lobbying, but has no limits on participation in the regulatory process.

For all of the above reasons, we urge you to oppose any legislation that contains restrictions such as those in Title I of H.R. 3485.


A Territory Resource (WA)
Access Hall County, Inc
ADAPT of Texas
Ad-Hoc Working Group On Penn Station (NJ)
Advocacy Inc. (TX)
Advocates for Children and Youth (MD)
Alan Guttmacher Institute
Alaska PIRG
Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation
Alliance for Justice
Alliance To End Childhood Lead Poisoning
Alzheimers Association
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Association for Respiratory Care
American Association of Engineering Societies
American Association of Law Libraries
American Association of Museums
American Association of Retired Persons (TX)
American Association of University Affiliated Programs for

Persons with Developmental Disabilities.
American Cancer Society
American Congress of Community Support and Employment Services
American Council of the Blind of Texas
American Council on Education
American Federation of Teachers
American Friends Service Committee, Washington Office
American Heart Association
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Congress
American Library Association
American Lung Association
American Lung Association of Nebraska
American Network of Community Options and Resources
American Physical Therapy Association
American Psychological Association
American Public Health Association
American Public Power Association
American Radio Relay League
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
American Symphony Orchestra League
American Thoracic Society
American Waterworks Association
American Women's Work
Americans For Democratic Action
Applied Research and Development Institute International, Inc.
The Arc
The Arc of Iowa
The Arc of Texas
Archaeological Institute of America
Arkansas Public Policy Panel
Arkansas Seniors Organized for Progress
Arts Network of Washington State
Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, Inc.
Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
Association of Military Surgeons of the US
Association of Performing Arts Presenters
Association of Research Libraries
Association of Science-Technology Centers
Austin Mayor's Committee for People With Disabilities (TX)
Austin Resource Center for Independent Living (TX)
AVATAR Company (FL)
Bank One
Baptist Joint Committee
Bay Institute of San Francisco
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Berks County Mental Health Association (PA)
Big Brothers and Sisters of Spokane Washington
Blue Ridge Independent Living Center, Lynchburg Satellite (VA)
Brain Injury Association of Maryland
Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition
Buffalo State College Department of New Student Programs and
Academic Advisement (NY)
California Association of Nonprofits
California Women's Law Center
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa
Center for Citizen Initiatives (CA)
Center for Community Change
Center for Community Self-Help
Center for Economic Options
Center for Law and Social Policy
Center for Non-Profit Corporations
Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy, Cornell
Center for Rural Affairs
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Center for Social Gerontology, Inc. (MI)
Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan University
Center for Women Policy Studies
Champaign County Health Care Consumers (IL)
Chemical Weapons Working Group, Inc
Child and Family Service of New Hampshire
Child Welfare League of America
Children at Risk
Children's Action Alliance (AZ)
Children's Alliance, Seattle
Children's Defense Fund
Children's Foundation
Christian Church Foundation (IN)
Church Women United
Church World Service
Cincinnati Community Video
Citizen Action of Illinois
Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Clearinghouse on Women's Issues
Coachella Valley Housing Coalition
Coalition for the Homeless (KY)
Coalition of Texans With Disabilities
Coalition on Homelessness and Housing In Ohio
Colorado Association of Non-Profit Organizations
Colorado Cross Disability Coalition
Colorado Minority Engineering Association
Colorado Wildlife Federation
Columban Fathers' Justice and Peace Office
Common Ground for Children
Community Alliance of Tenants (OR)
Community Consulting Associates (MI)
Community Development Institute (PA)
Connecticut Human Service Nonprofit Cabinet
Consortium of Developmental Disabilities Councils
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Law Center of the South
Consumer Project on Technology
Consumers Union
Corporate Campaign Inc.
Council of Chief State School Officers
Council of Jewish Federations
Council on Foundations
Council on Independent Living (TX)
Crockett Resource Center for Independent Living (TX)
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
DARTS, Inc. (MN)
Denver Center for Performing Arts
Des Moines Symphony
Disabilites Law Project
Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, DC
Donor's Forum of Chicago
Earth Island Institute
Easter Seals (TX)
Easter Seals of Connecticut
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
Enterprise Foundation, Inc
Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Federation (NC)
Environmental Foundation, Inc
Environmental Health Coalition (CA)
Epilepsy Foundation
Facilitation Supports, Inc. (PA)
Family T.I.E.S. Region 1 (IL)
Federal Land Action Group
Federation of State Humanities Councils
Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Florida Legal Services
Food Research and Action Center
Foundation of Monongalia General Hospital
Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Sea Otter
Friends of VISTA
Fund for Community Progress (RI)
Fund for Immigrants and Refugees
Funding Exchange (NY)
Gay/Lesbian Legal Referral Service
Gennesee Valley Rural Preservation Council (NY)
Glaucoma Research Foundation
Goodwill Industries International
Grassroots Fundraising Journal
Grassroots Policy Project
Gray Panthers of Austin (TX)
Grupo Dignidad, Igualidad y Oportunidad (TX)
HALT: An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform
Handicapped Resource Association (TX)
Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Health & Welfare Council, Long Island
Healthy Family Initiative (TX)
Hillsborough CARES (FL)
History of Science Society (WA)
Holt International Children's Services
Holy Families Door Ministry (NE)
Holy Name Housing Corporation (NE)
Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky
Housing Works
Houston Center for Independent Living
Human Rights Access (HRX)
Human Services Coalition of Oregon
Humane Society of the United States
Hunger Network in Ohio
Independent Living Resource Utilization (TX)
Independent Sector
Indiana Coalition on Housing and Homeless Issues
Institute for Regional Education (NM)
Interfaith Council for Action
Interfaith Housing (DE)
International Eye Foundation
International Primate Protection League
Iowa Coalition for Housing and the Homeless
Jefferson County Coalition on Substance Abuse (FOCUS) (WV)
Jefferson County Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TX)
Jewish Center For Community Services of Bridgeport (CT)
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia
Jewish Community Relations Council of Hartford (CT)
Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut
Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle
Jewish Federation of Portland
Justice for All
Kansas Children's Service League
Kelleher & Associates (CA)
Kentuckiana Girl Scout Council
Kentucky Citizens for the Arts
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Learning Disabilities Association of Texas, Inc.
Leukemia Society of America
Libraries for the Future
Lifetime Independence for Everyone, Inc.
Living Independence Network Corporation (ID)
Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger & Homelessness
Low Income Housing Institute (WA)
Lutheran Services for the Aging
Lutheran Services of America
Lutheran World Relief
Maine Arts Commission
Maine Arts Sponsors Association
Maine Association of Nonprofits
Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association
Martin County Community Action Inc. (NC)
Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations
Maryland Food Committee
Maryland Student Service Alliance
Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
Maternal and Child Health Access
Mental Health Association of Metro Atlanta
Mercy Housing (NE)
Mercy Housing Midwest
Metro Human Needs Alliance of Louisville
Metropolitan Housing Coalition (KY)
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Michaels Consultation (AZ)
Michigan Environmental Council
Michigan Jewish Conference
Michigan League for Human Services
Mississippi Center for Nonprofits
Mississippi Human Services Agenda
Montana Environmental Information Center
Montana Independent Living Project
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, National Office
Multiple Sclerosis Society, Southeast Texas Chapter
National Association for Independent Living
National Association of Developmental Disabilities Councils
National Association of Elementary School Principals
National Association of Housing Cooperatives
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional
Children (NAPSEC)
National Association of Protection and Advocacy
National Association of School Psychologists
National Association of Services and Conservation Corps
National Association of Social Workers
National Association of State Directors of Special Education
National Black Nurses Association
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Civic League
National Coalition on Black Voter Participation
National Coalition on Deaf-Blindness
National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
National Consumers League
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Council of Nonprofit Associations
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
National Council on the Aging
National Environmental Trust
National Families in Action
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
National Farmers Union
National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut
National Health Council
National Home of Your Own Alliance, Institute on Disability/UAP
National Hospice Organization
National Humanities Alliance
National Leased Housing Association
National MS Society, New York City Chapter
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
National Neighborhood Coalition
National Order of Battlefield Commissions
National Organization for Rare Disorders
National Outdoor Leadership School
National Partnership for Women and Families
National Peace Corps Association
National PTA
National Puerto Rican Coalition
National Rehabilitation Association
National Rural Housing Coalition
National School Boards Association
National Society of Fundraising Executives
National Victim Center
National Women's Law Center
Native Forest Council (OR)
Natural Resources Defense Council
Naval Enlisted Reserve Association
Neighborhood Preservation Council of New York State
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
New Hampshire Developmental Disabilities Council
New Hampshire Peace Action
New Jersey Citizen Action
New Jersey Council for the Humanities
New Jersey Parent Advocacy, Training and Help
New York Regional Association of Grantmakers
New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
New York State Coalition for the Homeless
New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition
95 Worldview (NH)
Niagara Frontier Consumers Association
NISH (formerly the National Industries for the Severely Handicapped)
Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York
Nonprofit Resources of Southern New England
North Carolina Center for Nonprofits
North Carolina Senior Citizens Federation
Northeast Florida AIDS Network
Northern California Grantmakers
Northern Colorado Social Legislation Network
Northern Colorado Social Legislation Network
Northside Common Ministries (PA)
Ocean State Action (RI)
Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations
Oklahoma Wildlife Federation
Older Women's League
OMB Watch
OPTIONS for Independence (UT)
Oregon Advocacy Center
Oregon Food Bank
Overseas Cooperative Development Council
Paralyzed Veterans of America- Lone Star Chapter
Pathfinders International
People for the American Way
Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth
Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth
Pilchuck Audubon Society (WA)
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (CA)
Planned Parenthood of Orange and Durham Counties
Population Action International
Pratt Health Care Services Foundation (KS)
Preamble Center
Prevent Child Abuse, Indiana
Progress Center for Independent Living (IL)
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Rainforest Relief
REACH of Dallas
REACH of Denton
REACH of Fort Worth
Reclamation, Inc. (TX)
Reconciliation (TN)
Redlands Symphony Association (CA)
Resource Utilization Network (TX)
Retired Officers Association
San Antonio Disability Advocates (TX)
San Antonio Independent Living Services (TX)
Seedco (NY)
Shorewood Public School Board (WI)
Sierra Club
Sioux Empire Homeless Coalition (SD)
Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of St Louis
Sisters of Mercy, Cedar Rapids Regional Community
Sisters of Providence Health Systems (WA)
Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
South Carolina Independent Living Council
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Southwest Collegiate Institute For the Deaf (TX)
Spina Bifida Association of America
Spokane County Democratic Central Committee
Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium
St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, Inc. (OR)
Strategic Pastoral Action (SPAN)
TASH: The Association for Persons With Severe Handicaps
Texas Advocates
Texas AIDS Network
Texas Alliance for Human Needs
Texas Association of the Deaf
Texas Citizen Action
Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Texas Department of Human Services- Office of Services to
Persons With Disabilities
Texas Medical Association
Texas Mental health Consumers
Texas Nurses Association
Texas Paralyzed Veterans Association- Greater Austin
Texas Rehabilitation Commission- Consumer Affairs
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Texas School for the Deaf
Transitions (WA)
Travis County Council For the Deaf
Tri-County Independent Living Center, Inc. (OH)
Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Cerebral Palsy Association of New Jersey
United Cerebral Palsy Associations
United Cerebral Palsy of East Central Missouri
United Cerebral Palsy of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc.
United Cerebral Palsy, Blackhawk (IL)
United Church of Christ Network for Environmental and Economic
United Church of Christ, Office for Church in Society
United Methodist Adult Retarded Association
United Senior Action of Indiana
Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN!)
Urban Coalition of the Twin Cities
US Catholic Conference
Utah Issues
Utah Issues
Utah Nonprofits Association
Valley Association For Independent Living
Vermont PIRG
Very Special Arts
Virginia Organizing Project
Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension
Voice of the Environment
Volar (TX)
Volunteers of America
Volunteers of America National Office
W.A.M.Y. Community Action (NC)
Washington County Progressive Coalition (VT)
Washington Kurdish Institute
Washington Low Income Housing Network
WC Workshop, Inc (WV)
Welfare Law Center
West Virginia Commission on the Arts
Westchester Community Foundation
Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health
Wetlands Preserve
Wisconsin Citizen Action
Wisconsin Humanities Council
Worker Ownership Resource Center (NY)
World Association of Persons with Disability
World Learning
World Neighbors
World Relief
Wyoming County Workshop (WV)
Wyoming County Opportunity Council, Inc. (WV)
Wyoming Outdoor Council
YMCA of the USA
YWCA of the USA
Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
Zero Population Growth