Oregon Official Appeals To Nonprofits About Politicking

An Oregon official has issued a plea for nonprofits to take steps to ensure that they do not jeopardize their tax exemptions by becoming improperly enmeshed in politicking.

In a May 26 statement, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury encouraged nonprofits, including charities, education and religious organizations, to check with their attorneys if they are involved with ballot measures.

"I applaud churches and charities for their leadership in our communities and I want to see that leadership continue," Bradbury said. "That's why I'm asking every tax-exempt charity that participates in campaigns to please consult an attorney."

According to press accounts, supporters of a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage are gathering signatures at churches. Proponents of the constitutional amendment must collect 100,840 valid signatures by July 2 to get the amendment on the November ballot.

Bradbury's statement noted that "excessive lobbying can jeopardize the tax-exempt status of nonprofit charitable, educational and religious organizations.

"Lobbying includes advocating for or against ballot measures and initiative signature gathering," the statement reads. "Whether the amount of lobbying conducted by a nonprofit, church or charity will cause loss of tax-exempt status or other penalty is determined by the IRS based on all the facts and circumstances."

Bradbury's statement also warned that tax-exempt nonprofits that get involved in politics may be deemed a political committee by the Secretary of State's Elections Division and would need to file the appropriate reports.