IRS Might Have Something to Say About How Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams Are Campaigning for Terry McAuliffe

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Posted: Oct 17, 2021 2:45 PM
IRS Might Have Something to Say About How Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams Are Campaigning for Terry McAuliffe

Source: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Update:

The IRS might want to check in on the churches where Stacey Abrams is campaigning on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate McAuliffe as well. As Will Weissert reported for AP, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams made appearances at three churches in Norfolk, Virginia, including Second Calvary Baptist Church and Faith Deliverance Christian Center. 

Weissert wrote:

Abrams said when she first began running for office, she felt mixing politics and church was bad. But, she said, her mother eventually reminded her that “politics is always in the church” and her father said that the Bible “is one of the most intense political texts ever written.”

“Voting is an act of faith,” Abrams said. “I need you to do the job.”

Abrams may no longer feel that way about mixing politics and church, but the IRS sure does.

Original Post:

As we covered, CNN reported on Friday that Vice President Kamala Harris was yet another Democrat who is going to campaign for gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. It turns out though that the details of Harris' campaigning are something the IRS might want to weigh in on.

Harris' connection between faith and voting is not subtle but starts off normal enough. The message quickly took on a far too political tone, though:

So Virginians, you have the opportunity now to raise your voice through our vote, because it's election time. As you know, this is an important election coming up on Tuesday, November 2. And early voting is already underway. 

I believe that my friend Terry McAuliffe is the leader Virginia needs at this moment. Terry McAuliffe has a long track record of getting things done for the people of Virginia. When he was governor, in the wake of the Recession, you'll remember, he brought 200,000 jobs to Virginians. Incomes went up, and unemployment went down in every city and county of the state. 

And now Terry McAuliffe is stepping up again, with a clear vision about how to rebuild Virginia's economy for the future: to raise the minimum wage, to make healthcare more affordable, to give every child a world-class education. Virginians, you deserve a leader who has a vision of what is possible, and the experience to realize that vision. Terry McAuliffe is that leader. 

In 2020. more Virginians voted than ever before. And because you did, you helped send President Joe Biden and me to the White House. This year, I know that you will send Terry McAuliffe back to Richmond. 

So, early voting has already started. And this is the first year that you can vote on Sunday. So please, vote after today's service. And if you cannot vote today, make a plan to go vote.

The above is included in a video message from Vice President Harris, slightly over two minutes long, and will air during morning church services between today and November 2. 

With such political activity taking place in churches, the IRS ought to be taking a look to see if such churches are able to hold onto their tax exempt status.

On the IRS' official government website is a section on "Charities, Churches and Politics," which notes with original emphasis:

The ban on political campaign activity by charities and churches was created by Congress more than a half century ago. The Internal Revenue Service administers the tax laws written by Congress and has enforcement authority over tax-exempt organizations. Here is some background information on the political campaign activity ban and the latest IRS enforcement statistics regarding its administration of this congressional ban.

...

Currently, the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one "which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

The IRS also lays out what political activity churches are allowed to engage in. Under a page titled "The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations," it reads:

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.

...

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.

While CNN's reporting on the video message by Dan Merica and Evan McKend does not address how the tax-exempt status could be in danger, it does deal with the reality that McAuliffe's campaign is in trouble. "McAuliffe fights to engage politically exhausted Democrats in close of Virginia campaign," their headline reads.

Another media report over the weekend, from Jonathan Martin with The New York Times discusses "Terry McAuliffe’s Other Obstacle in Virginia Race: Democrats’ Apathy."

One of the top trending articles for The Hill is Alexander Bolton's piece, "Virginia race looms as dark cloud over Biden's agenda."

Meanwhile, the enthusiasm for Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin's campaign is quite palpable.

Whether or not the IRS decides to investigate such political activity going on at churches, it is going to be scrutinizing the bank accounts of average American citizens much more, starting at just $600.

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