Presentations (Communicative Events)

Politics and The Public Benefit Corporation

Johnstone, Anthony

Politics has given “social welfare” a bad name. In a year featuring important election-year debates over a great recession, health care coverage, fiscal austerity, and, well, “social welfare,” six of the top ten New York Times stories of 2012 containing that term concerned campaign spending from undisclosed funding sources . The juxtaposition of social welfare and dark money is unfortunate beyond semantics. It reflects a broader confusion between tax law and election law, as well as between federal and state regulation. For decades, Congress has tried and failed to legislate a coherent regime for the tax exemption and disclosure of political contributions and expenditures. From 501(c)(4) organizations to 527 organizations and back again, and from soft money to PACs to independent expenditures, federal law continually channels and rechannels essentially fluid political activity through a series of leaky regulations administered by ineffective enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, at a time when the vast majority of Americans find it increasingly difficult to make their voices heard and dollars count in politics, the regulatory complexity of organized political participation is that of the tax code squared by campaign finance law.


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More About This Work


Another paper from the same panel is available in Academic Commons.

"Advocacy by Charitable Nonprofits: Flipping The Accountability Lens To Focus On Government Actions" by Tim Delaney -

Access all papers from the 2013 Charities Regulation and Oversight Project Policy Conference in Academic Commons