Can one of my astute readers explain to me what the rationale is for the ban on express political advocacy by non-profit organizations?
I know that there is such a ban. I think I know what the rule is. 501(c)(3) organization X that stands for saving the whales (or whatever) is legally permitted to talk about the dangers of such-and-such a law to the whales, about how we need more laws to protect the whales, and so forth. But X cannot say, "Elect Smith for Congress this year, because he stands for saving the whales." Or, perhaps more accurately, only the "XPAC" can say that, and a PAC is a whole nother entity. Issue advocacy is permitted, but not express advocacy.
I think I get this. But even before McCain-Feingold (and yes, my memory does go back that far) there was this ban on a non-profit organization's expressly advocating the election of a particular candidate or a particular vote, say, on a referendum. They always had to watch out for that "express advocacy" bright line. Now why?
If the rationale for a non-profit's being tax exempt is supposed to be that it doesn't make a profit, isn't this an accounting matter? Wouldn't this simply be a matter of having a definition of the term "non-profit" and then determining whether or not the group did, in fact, meet that fiscal definition? What does express advocacy have to do with making a profit or not making a profit?
This is not a trick question. I suspect my readers will know the answer better than I do, and as I've been busy and a bit dry of post ideas recently, I thought I'd give y'all a chance to answer it.