We’ve had some inquiries recently about the current presidential election here in the US, and whether we might be willing to publish articles pertaining to it. This is a bit of a minefield for us, so I thought it’d be a good time to explain something that not everyone may be aware of.
In order to make 1P5 a sustainable enterprise, we needed to identify a method of generating revenue. As a publication that gives away content for free, the most obvious (and common) such method was to create a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt educational organization, which is what allows our donors to make tax-deductible contributions to support our work.
Some Catholic publications have a different filing status. CatholicVote, for example — a publication I used to write for — is a “501(c)(4) grassroots lobbying organization with a connected political action committee…” which allows them to endorse candidates or to favor or oppose legislation. CV also has a 501(c)(3) education fund that produces non-partisan content (mostly religious in nature) but stays away from politics.
The IRS is very strict about which organizations are allowed to engage in political speech. Tax-exempt organizations are not allowed to get involved in political campaigning or endorsements of any kind. The rules are as follows:
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.
On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.
For this reason we are unable to engage in political speech in the way that some of our readers and contributors would prefer. While this is sometimes frustrating, we’ve learned to deal with it. Since 1P5’s mission has always been about teaching the Catholic faith, sharing news about the Catholic Church, and providing resources to help restore Catholic tradition and rebuild Catholic culture — not politics — the 501(c)(3) structure and its speech restrictions are not serious obstacles to our work.
If you were wondering why we steer clear of these matters, now you know.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.