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Friday, March 15, 2013

Lobbying for Political Science

Inside Higher Ed reports:
As has become common in recent years, some Republicans in Congress are trying to kill the National Science Foundation's support for political science research. Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, has proposed that the $10 million a year spent by the NSF on political science research be shifted to the National Cancer Institute. "NSF’s political science program siphons valuable resources away from higher priority research that will yield greater applied benefits and potential to stir further innovation," said a fact sheet released by the senator. "This amendment does not aim to hinder science, but rather to allocate more support for research that will save lives."
Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of American Universities, sent a letter to senators, opposing the proposal. "The amendment sets up a false dichotomy between medical research and research in the social sciences that we emphatically reject," Rawlings wrote. "The arguments for providing additional funds for NIH and specifically for NCI are obviously strong, and we wish Congress were providing more funding in FY13. However, such funding should not and need not come at the expense of political science research."
The American Political Science Association, a 501(c)(3) group, is lobbying against the move.  Is that legal? The Center for Association Leadership explains:
Nonprofit organizations that qualify for federal income tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (the "Code") have the most favorable tax status, but they also have the most restrictions on government affairs activities. To maintain their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, these organizations must avoid all political campaign activities and must keep lobbying within permissible limits. While there is an absolute prohibition on 501(c)(3) organizations participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office, 501(c)(3) organizations can engage in a relatively significant amount of lobbying activity if carefully conceived and managed.