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Attempts by Exempt Organizations to Influence Judicial Appointments

Under the Internal Revenue Code, tax-exempt organizations are allowed to try to influence the nomination or confirmation of a potential justice to the federal court, including the Supreme Court. However, the rules on such lobbying vary, depending on the section of the Code under which the exempt organization operates.

Section 527 political organizations.  Unlimited lobbying to influence Senate confirmation of judicial appointments by section 527 organizations is permitted.  Under the Code, exempt function activity for political organizations includes expenditures for the purpose of influencing the appointment of an individual to public office.

501(c)(3) charitable, etc., organizations.  Limited lobbying to influence Senate confirmation of judicial appointments is permitted. 

Attempts to influence Senate confirmation of a federal judicial appointment are not considered campaign intervention, which is specifically forbidden by section 501(c)(3).  However, because attempts to influence Senate confirmation are considered lobbying, they are subject to the rules on lobbying: 

  • Section 501(c)(3) organizations may engage in lobbying in furtherance of their exempt purposes.
  • The lobbying may not be a substantial part of the organization’s activities.

Section 501(c)(4), (5) and (6) organizations (social welfare organizations, labor unions, business leagues, etc.)  Unlimited lobbying in furtherance of their exempt purpose is generally permitted. 

Social welfare organizations under section 501(c)(4), labor, agricultural, or horticultural organizations under section 501(c)(5), and business leagues under section 501(c)(6) may engage in unlimited lobbying in furtherance of their exempt purposes.  Dues paid to such organizations are not deductible business expenses to the extent they are spent on lobbying.  If members generally deduct dues as business expenses, the organization must notify them of the nondeductible amount or pay a proxy tax at corporate rates on its lobbying expenditures.