Bill # H.R. 781 (S 264)
Bill Name: Free Speech Fairness Act
Legislature – Federal
House – House & Senate
Sponsors – Rep Scalise (R–LA)(with 53 cosponsors)
Senate Sponsor – Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) Co-Sponsors (3): Sen Rand Paul, Ted Cruz & Roy Blunt
Where is it now? House – Ways & Means Comm., Kevin Brady, (R-TX), Chair
Senate – Finance Comm, Orrin Hatch, (R-UT) Chair
Stakeholders – All 501(c)(3) organizations, e.g. religious, charitable, large foundations
Why do we care? This bill would eliminate the “Johnson Amendment” which prevents tax-exempt orgs from endorsing political campaigns.
The Johnson Amendment is narrowly tailored to restrict charitable organizations’ ability to engage in direct political activity. It does not restrict their free speech or capacity to participate in public policy. Charitable organizations remain able to advocate around mission-driven issues that impact our communities and our nation.
Trump has sworn to “totally destroy” this Amendment.
This would allow groups to put forward a faith driven political platform; it would make religious orgs as well as large charitable foundations able to act in the same manner as SuperPacs do now. Although the bill says that the orgs expenses must be minimal, interpretation of this stipulation is suspect.
How does it meet our stated objective? If this bill passes, a progressive initiative will be even more difficult.
“Charitable organizations are among the most trusted entities in the United States,” said Allison Grayson, director of policy development and analysis at Independent Sector. “That public trust demands that 501(c)(3) public charities remain above the political fray, advocating and informing policymakers but not engaging in partisan political activity.”
“Charities and religious organizations are rightly insulated from partisan manipulation under current law,” said Emily Peterson-Cassin, Bright Lines Project coordinator at Public Citizen. “Politicizing the charitable sector would harm the community trust that those organizations have worked over decades to build.”
Local Impact? Impact will be nation wide. Most Americans agree this is a terrible idea.
Possible Action: Call/Write Committee Chairmen; your Representative, asking about their potential vote.