Nonprofits May Be Able to Go Politically Wild Thanks to House Republicans

New Orleans   The “law of unintended consequences” is not one that was passed by the US House of Representatives and its far right, ideological Republican majority, but it is certainly one that they might soon learn at their peril.

One of the many hidden time bombs in their recent tax bill, now heading towards conference with the Senate, was originally a repeal of the Johnson Amendment that prohibits tax-exempt charities from political activity. Initially, their amendment was only a wet kiss to the heavy breathers in their religious base who wanted a special exemption to practice politics from the pulpit. Not to be outdone – the final version of the House bill instead opens a political floodgate for charities to go wild. Their bill says that any tax-exempt charity can boost or bust political candidates if “the preparation and presentation of such content” is “in the ordinary course of the organization’s regular and customary activities” and does not result in more than de minimis incremental expenses.” (thanks to Ellen P. Aprill a tax law professor at Loyola Law School who read and reported the language!)

So, sure, that would cover preaching, because there’s no cost in adding an endorsement into a sermon, but it would also cover a world of other things that fit fully into a nebulous “de minimis” standard like a banner across a website’s home page, constant Twitter and Facebook posts, and endless email blasts all of which have virtually no cost. Remember as well that these standards are all set and monitored by the Internal Revenue Service, which to date, since the passage of the Johnson Amendment, has never clarified the existing standard of what might be permissible political activity, leaving the matter to institutional restraint and lawyer empowering, as one outfit after another takes a stab at a number, whether less than 5% or 8% or zero. Remember also that because of that the penalties are also somewhere between nil and a hand slap. President Trump’s own foundation was caught in this mess, as you may also remember, when he used the foundation’s funds to make several political contributions at the 5-figure levels, all of which he remedied by repaying the foundation. There was never a question about whether he was going to surrender the tax exemption of his foundation and certainly no evidence that the IRS was threatening to take it away. Without the thin shield of the Johnson Amendment, there will be no practical limits to what nonprofits might be able to do.

The Republican House may think more activism from the pulpit makes it all worthwhile, but they aren’t the only nonprofits who can jump into the partisan playgrounds. Take nonprofit hospitals for example, which still make up almost 60% of hospitals. A list of the top six systems from Ascension to Kaiser in the Wall Street Journal indicated they were turning over $158.5 billion dollars annually. Hospitals were pretty united in their opposition to the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and will be even more committed to any cutbacks in Medicaid or Medicare. If “de minimis” was 5%, they could spent almost $8 billion, but even dropping notices in every bill or banners on every sign-up for your medical records online now would certainly get the message out. It would also cost just the same for doctors and nurses to whisper in patients’ ears as it cost for the pastor to slip an endorsement in a prayer.

Churches are shrinking while many other parts of the nonprofit sector, like healthcare, are soaring. The Republican House might should get on their knees and offer something up to the Republican Senate to save them from this repeal before the law of unintended consequences makes them give more than they hope to receive.

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Congressman Al Green is Serious About Trump Impeachment

New Orleans   Before you say anything, let me be clear. We’re big Al Green fans. Huge, simply, huge! Houston’s Democratic Congressman Al Green has been our go-to-guy for the last dozen years, whenever Local 100 United Labor Unions or ACORN needed help on anything, anytime. When there was a resolution in Congress to ban ACORN, Al Green wasn’t voting for it, even as many of our friends folded like cheap suits. When ACORN International wanted a delegation of Korean mayors and legislators to meet a Congressman, who do you think agreed to meet them? Al Green, that’s who. When Local 100 has a leadership conference anywhere within shouting of Houston, and sometimes even in New Orleans, who has keynoted unfailingly? Yes, Al Green. When we needed help to fight for better remittance policies and against payday lending, Green took our cause to the House Financial Services Committee. He brought us to his office to discuss a national living wage bill and an increase in the federal minimum wage. He represents Houston, but was born and raised in New Orleans. Don’t ever tell me that we don’t support Congressman Al Green.

So, were we surprised when Al Green took the floor of the House of Representatives and formally offered Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump? Heck no, he had told us last June in Houston that he was going to ask that Trump be impeached then. It was just a matter of time, and the time had obviously come. Al Green had had enough.

The Washington Post catches the weight and drama of Green’s move:

Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) came to the House floor at 12:13 p.m… to offer articles of impeachment under special House rules requiring a floor vote; he returned to the floor at 1:34 to force that vote. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) offered a motion to table the resolution, which was adopted on a 364 to 58 vote. Every lawmaker who opposed the motion was a Democrat, as were four others who voted present.

The top two House Democrats both voted to table the resolution after coming out against Green’s effort shortly before the House voted.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) issued a joint statement opposed Green’s push, though they stopped short of calling on Democrats to vote to kill it.

 

The leadership’s argument was to keep working hard to oppose Trump initiatives and to let the special counsel proceed with investigations into Russian collusion in Trump’s election. They had made the argument before, and Green was not to be dissuaded this time.

So, sure, it’s also not a surprise that he got beaten, but he got 57 other recorded votes besides his own for articles of impeachment, and that’s something, even if 12% is a long way from a majority. Don’t tell me that Mister Hypersensitive in the White House didn’t notice that as well. Win or lose, it’s not a good day in the West Wing when there’s a vote to impeach you for malfeasance in office.

Notice has been served, and, we know Congressman Al Green, so trust us, this is serious, and he’s not going away, so someone in the White House better straighten their act up and do it ASAP.

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