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Political Campaign Activity - Private Foundations

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations, including private foundations, 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 foundation in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.  Violation of 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 the presentation of public forums and the publication of 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 constitute 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.


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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 30-Apr-2013