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Inhofe Amendments Threaten Nonprofits with Jail

Today, the Senate brought up two amendments offered by  Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) that would severely chill nonprofit speech with the threat of jail time.  These are amendments to the Senate’s lobbying reform bill. 

These two amendments would add a penalty clause to Secs. 7 and 18 of the Lobbying Disclosure Act.  The provisions state that if a 501(c) organization – and only 501(c) organizations – engages in lobbying activities with federal funds, an officer of the organization can be imprisoned for 5 years and fined.  Currently, the penalty for such a violation is a fine.

Why should you be concerned about these amendments?

These amendments pose a negative, unwarranted, and potentially unconstitutional threat for the entire nonprofit sector. 

  • Existing laws and regulations already prohibit nonprofits from using federal funds to lobby or to support/oppose candidates for elected office.

  • These Inhofe amendments are aimed at only nonprofit organizations – for-profit companies would not face imprisonment for violating the prohibition. 

  • Nonprofit organizations that receive federal grant money may fear that access to such funds might be restricted if they do not curb their own legally-permissible advocacy activities with their private funds.

These Inhofe amendments could have a profound impact on the nonprofit sector as a whole.

For more information about this issue or other Alliance for Justice topics, please visit their website at http://www.afj.org/.

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