Banning political activity by tax-exempt groups likely would not run afoul of the First Amendment. Upholding an analogous ban on lobbying activity — also protected by the First Amendment — by charities in 1983, the Supreme Court said Congress could choose not to subsidize lobbying. The court noted that charities could establish separate but related groups to lobby, just as tax-exempt organizations could set up separate political groups under a ban. In fact, it was just this sort of lobbying activity for which 501(c)(4) organizations were created in the first place.
The law needs to be changed to require the disclosure supported by the Supreme Court and expected by the public. Corporations as well as millionaires and billionaires seeking to influence American elections can no longer be permitted to manipulate tax law to hide their activities from public view. Let’s see whether they relish the spotlight as much as Ms. Kardashian.
Melanie Sloan is executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.