501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from engaging in political campaign activities, including endorsing or opposing political candidates or other actions that are viewed as intervening in elections to public office. This line in the Internal Revenue Code, which restricts political activity by charities, is often referred to as the “Johnson Amendment”—named after then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who introduced it in 1954. Organizations that violate the Johnson Amendment risk losing their tax-exempt status. In addition, the Council will continue to support the charitable sector’s involvement in public policy in accordance with current rules and regulations.
501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, under current law, are permitted to engage in some political activity, as long as it is not its primary activity.
The Council on Foundations supports the Johnson Amendment and will oppose efforts to weaken or repeal it.