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/.