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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Charities and Lobbying

Our text explains that charities organized under section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code may spend a small portion of their income on lobbying. We note that they may also have ties to 501(c)(4) groups that do focus on lobbying. In The Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney offers the example of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
In 2009, the Komen Foundation -- a 501(c)3 charity and thus limited in the percentage of its money it can spend on lobbying -- gave its single-largest "education" grant, $4.4 million, to the Komen Advocacy Alliance, its public policy and lobbying arm, which is covered by section 501(c)4 of the tax code and thus unrestricted in its lobbying. A Komen spokesman said the Advocacy Alliance uses that money for its non-lobbying advocacy, such as grass-roots education, and that actual lobbying money doesn't come from the 501(c)3. However, the Advocacy Alliance currently operates on a loan from the main Komen foundation (the 501(c)3). Unless you ignore the fungibility of money, supporting Komen means supporting its lobbying operation.
Our chapter also includes a photo essay on the Podesta family, which is prominent in Washington interest-group circles. Carney notes:
Heather Podesta, the most famous of Komen's K Street hired guns (and a leading Democratic Party fundraiser), reports that her firm lobbied on Komen's behalf for "support [for] H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act/H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as it relates to breast cancer prevention, screening, research, and treatment." In other words, Komen supported Obamacare insofar as it included provisions it supported. Komen spokesman Sean Tuffnell, however, told me that Komen "never did fully endorse the legislation."
Nevertheless, Carney argues that such activities pose a conflict for contributors who support the charity's overall aims but oppose specific measures for which it lobbies.