Follow the Money with Kathleen Warnock: 501c4s

Kathleen Warnock is a playwright, editor, and journalist. This is a repost of a series she is researching and posting on Facebook.

As important as undoing gerrymandering for reform/resistance, another essential tool should be for Congress to refine the tax code so that 501(c)(4) orgs cannot spend millions on political contributions.

(Most theater/arts folk know what a 501(c)(3) status is–it lets donors give us tax-deductible contributions, and the orgs themselves are tax-exempt; and we know what a Form 990 is…the federal tax return filed by the non-profit.)

The Citizens United decision opened the door for all the soft, dark money, Congress COULD change the law so that these “social welfare” orgs (that’s what they officially called) are not permitted to use their funds for political purposes. That would be a hard one: the Sierra Club is a (c)(4) org, as is Planned Parenthood. And, of course, the NRA. (For that matter, the Dramatists Guild of America is a 501(c)(4)).

Or, at least, require the (c)(4) orgs to list all donors and amounts contributed on their 990s, and itemize how the money was spent. Specific expenditures and activities.

Or, take away the tax exempt status from “social welfare” orgs whose primary purpose is electioneering, and make ’em pay taxes.

Here’s a great FAQ on some of the basic and finer points of 501 orgs.

Leave a Reply