|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
APRIL 8, 2004
|CONTACT: People For the American Way
Peter Montgomery (202) 467-4999
Julie Bernstein (202) 822-6070
Over 600 Nonprofits Oppose FEC's Proposed New Rules
WASHINGTON - April 8 - The Coalition to Protect Nonprofit Advocacy will submit comments tomorrow to the Federal Election Commission registering the opposition of more than 600 nonprofit organizations across the nation to the FEC proposed new rules. The proposed changes would drastically curtail free speech for nonprofits and could bankrupt many of them.
The Coalition comments can be accessed here.
Highlights of the comments include concerns that the proposed rules raise such profound restraints on First Amendment rights that the Congress and not the FEC is the proper body to consider these changes.
The Coalition also argues that the FEC should not rush in the middle of an election year to pass new rules that far exceed what Congress intended in passing the McCain-Feingold law and what the Supreme Court affirmed in upholding it in last year's McConnell decision, which said the law did not apply to interest groups beyond political parties. Some of the members of the Coalition were strong supporters of the McCain-Feingold law.
Attached is a list of possible scenarios that could result if the proposed rules were implemented.
According to the Coalition, 'The proposals ... would cause countless nonprofit organizations to drastically curtail their current programs or significantly alter the way in which they raise funds and conduct their activities. The proposed rules would seriously impair vigorous free speech and advocacy, as well as voter participation now and in the future.'
This is an ill-conceived attempt to fit a square peg (nonprofit organizations) into a round hole (the rules applicable to political party committees) that not only vastly exceeds the FEC's authority but also would usurp Congress's proper role in this area. The Commission should withdraw the proposed rules,the Coalition continues.
The Coalition to Protect Nonprofit Advocacy is led by eight national organizations, including the Alliance for Justice, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, League of Conservation Voters, NAACP National Voter Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, People For the American Way, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Sierra Club.
The submission of written comments will be followed by testimony from representatives of the Coalition at hearings before the FEC on Wednesday, April 14, and Thursday, April 15.
So far, little attention has focused on the fine print of the complex proposed rules and their far-reaching implications for all nonprofits, including charitable and advocacy groups organized under Sections 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) and 527 of the federal tax code. A vast number would be essentially silenced on the issues that define them.
Indeed, the proposed rules have tapped an enormous wellspring of national protest from nonprofits. In a sign that opposition to the proposed rules cuts across the ideological spectrum, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Tax Reform and the Club for Growth have also filed comments deploring the proposed regulations.
The rules drastically expand the definitions of political committeeand expenditurein the campaign finance arena. As a result, the vast majority of nonprofits risk becoming federally regulated political committees if they spend minimal amounts of money on certain types of communication and other activities that express views on an officeholder performance and public policy.
Under the most draconian proposal, the FEC couldlook back at a nonprofit group activities over the past four years to a time before McCain-Feingold was ever passed and long before the FEC ever proposed these rules to determine whether the group qualifies as a federal political committee. If group qualifies, the FEC would require the organization to raise hard money to repay prior expenses that are now subject to the new rules. Any and all further work would be halted until debts to the organization were repaid. This rule would jeopardize the survival of many groups.
EXAMPLES OF SPEECH THAT WOULD BE SEVERELY RESTRICTED OR PROHIBITED BY THE FEC PROPOSED RULES