‘Dark money’, that river of undisclosed campaign contributions that’s flooded our political process since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, may gain tax-deductible sanctity and status under the GOP’s “Tax Cuts & Jobs” legislative ‘reforms’.

Currently, the “Johnson Amendment”, enacted during the Eisenhower Administration, prohibits churches and other 501(c ) (3) organizations from engaging in partisan politics as a condition of receiving tax-deductible contributions.

But now, in the next to last page of the 429-page House tax bill (H.R. 1) a last-minute change would gut the Johnson Amendment by permitting churches — and any 501(c) (3) group — to endorse candidates and engage in political campaigns.  Even worse: donors to these churches and other groups would be allowed to take a tax deduction for their political contributions.

Under current law political donors to ‘independent’ political action committees can give unlimited amounts of campaign money, but they cannot take a charitable tax deduction.

However, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, under the GOP tax ‘reform’ proposal, political contributors to candidate committees, PACs, and the ‘dark money’ groups that currently can’t offer donors a charitable tax deduction are likely to divert those billions of $ to charitable, religious, and philanthropic organizations and be entitled to take a tax deduction.

Clearly, if this proposal makes it into law lots of Fat Cat political donors will profess a renewed interest in religion as they pay their politically preferred preachers to endorse candidates from the pulpit.

No wonder this proposed change conflicts with the clear majority of nonprofits that benefit from the current Johnson Amendment to keep them out of the political swamp.

This opposition is reflected in the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship, signed by more than 5,500 organizations in all 50 states, in the Faith Voices letter signed by more than 4,200 faith leaders, in the separate letter signed by more than 100 denominations and major religious organizations, and another letter from the law enforcement community, as well as polls showing that 72 percent of the public support keeping the Johnson Amendment in place as do nearly 90 percent of evangelical pastors.

Of course, those in favor of doing away with the Johnson Amendment falsely argue that current law unfairly discriminates against ‘religious free speech’.  And, in any event, they argue this is just a ‘minor tweak to the law that will have little impact’.

If this frightening attempt at political overreach to favor political Fat Cats even more by giving them a charitable tax-deduction bothers you, then send your Senators and Representative a message urging them to block any attempt to gut the safeguards of the “Johnson Amendment”.

Click Here to Write Your Congressional Representatives. Just put in your Zip Code and the names of your representatives will appear.  And … in the Subject line make sure you indicate your message is about the “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act”

Here’s a draft message as a starter:


As your constituent, I urge you to vote against any attempt to remove the “Johnson Amendment” from the tax code. The last thing America needs is to pollute our churches and other nonprofit organizations with tax-deductible, partisan politics.




P.S. Please send your email today unless you relish having the charitable causes you care about dragged into the partisan political wasteland.

With apologies to John Prine.



This article was posted in: Fundraising philosophy/profession, Nonprofit management.
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