Democrats and independents have often challenged the use of churches by GOP candidates for campaigning and voter registration drives. The same concern would appear raised by the remarks of senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett this Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church where she appeared to be stumping for the President — followed by a voter registration drive at the church.
The speech included the following highly partisan remarks:
“Teachers, and firefighters, and policemen, whose jobs are now in jeopardy because Congress–well let me be specific–because the Republicans in Congress,” Jarrett told the crowd. According to the CBS affiliate in Atlanta, at this point, “Before she could finish her sentence, people in the congregation were laughing, and applauding.”
Jarrett also celebrated the killing of Osama bin Laden — a developing theme by the President and his supporters to highlight his national security credentials. At some point, this becomes a bit distasteful like a modern version of the old system of quartering enemies and sending his body parts around the country to thrill the populace. William Wallace was displayed in separate parts in Newcastle upon Tyne, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stirling, and Aberdeen. I have no grief for Osama bin laden who is no William Wallace and frankly I am glad he is no longer with us. However, the use of his killing as a campaign theme is a bit off-putting.
Jarrett, however, used the church to relish the killing a bit more and noted “We all sleep a little better at night knowing Osama Bin Laden and his lieutenants are not plotting a terrorist attack against the United States.” If that is the case, by the way, is it time to declare victory in the war against terror? The position of the Administration is that the plotting continues . . . as do the president’s increasing national security powers.
Here is what the IRS says about 501(c)(3) organizations:
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.
On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.
The Internal Revenue Service provides resources to exempt organizations and the public to help them understand the prohibition. As part of its examination program, the IRS also monitors whether organizations are complying with the prohibition.
These remarks would appear to cross the line laid out by the IRS. The timing of the registration directly after the remarks only magnifies the problem.