litical spending by churches, Mr. Lynn contends, because they do
not have to file informational Form 990s to the IRS.
Still, Christian leaders insist that limiting political speech to
“regular activities” would safeguard nonprofits and churches from
becoming havens for “dark” campaign money.
“Amending the Johnson Amendment in this way, and not simply
repealing it entirely, relaxes the speech restrictions on all Section
501(c)( 3) nonprofit entities and allows them the breathing room to
communicate how candidates have addressed their issues,” Tony
Perkins, president of the conservative Christian group the Family
Research Council, wrote in a September statement in support of
the Free Speech Fairness Act.
Mr. Perkins endorsed Mr. Trump for president and invited him
to speak at the 2016 Values Voters Summit, an annual conservative
gathering hosted by the Family Research Council, at which the
then-candidate said he’d “knock out” the Johnson Amendment.
Others remain wary about amending the law. It’s unlikely
the IRS, which regulates tax-exempt organizations, would be an
effective watchdog of political activity, says Roger Colinvaux, a
professor at Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of
Law who specializes in nonprofit tax issues. It would be difficult
to define what “regular” activities are, and the IRS may hesitate to
apply subjective standards, he said.
The agency is also reeling from budget cuts and the controversy over alleged targeting of Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny
when they applied for tax-exempt status. And the IRS rarely takes
enforcement actions against churches, even when they openly
flout current laws around political activity, Mr. Colinvaux says: “It’s
already hard to police.” — TIMOTHY SANDOVAL
President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric re- garding immigrants, Muslims, and women dismayed many nonprofit leaders who work on behalf of those populations. With Mr. Trump taking office in January, they are scram- bling to develop strategies to cope with what they see as a
track record of hostility toward the vulnerable and policy changes
that may follow as a result.
“We’re just trying to brace ourselves for the worst and hope it
doesn’t come to that,” says Patricia Ortiz, program director at the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project in Los
Advocating against “hateful” language is a top
priority. Groups including Human Rights Campaign,
the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and United We Dream have denounced what
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious
Action Center of Reform Judaism, called “the scapegoating and fear-mongering” that took place during the
Finding alternative sources of revenue is also on the agenda.
Government money accounts for a large proportion of many
nonprofits’ budgets. Leaders worry that the new administration
will cut spending that benefits immigrants, women, and racial
minorities. Leaders at Esperanza are asking foundations and
individual donors for money in case government contracts for its
community education programs are slashed, Ms. Ortiz says.
Some charities that serve women and minority groups — the
Ms. Foundation for Women, the Council on American-Islamic
Relations, and the National Immigration Law Center among
them — started to receive unsolicited donations immediately
after the election from concerned supporters.
It is unclear if the surge in giving will last, and some nonprofit
leaders fear a backlash. Ken Martinet heads Catholic Big Brothers
Big Sisters, which mentors mostly Latino children in Los Angeles.
He said he and his colleagues have been stunned by stories from
their young clients about harassment. They worry the rancor
may extend to adults and that donors might “take umbrage at our
services to this largely Latino population — undocumented or
not — and stop their support of our work.”
Boosting efforts to serve at-risk populations is another
goal for nonprofits in the wake of Mr. Trump’s victory.
Staff members at Esperanza are contacting former
clients to encourage them to complete the requirements for naturalization, with interns reviewing
years’ worth of case files to identify eligible people.
“Depending on what happens, it could very well
be a big change in our programs,” Ms. Ortiz said. “If
he follows through on all the promises he made, with
the people he’s surrounding himself with on the cabinet,
it doesn’t look very promising.”
At other charities serving populations maligned by candidate
Trump, the election has simply increased leaders’ commitment
to ongoing advocacy and program work. Robert McCaw, manager
of the government-affairs department at the Council on Ameri-
can-Islamic Relations, doesn’t foresee a stark change in strategy
so much as a “doubling down” on the group’s existing advocacy
for reform of federal guidelines on racial profiling and surveil-
lance that targets Muslims.
Anticipating battles ahead, the organization is keeping some
Women and Minorities
of its plans private for now, Mr. McCaw said: “You don’t put all the
cards on the table.” — REBECCA KOENIG
Rural voters sent a clear message when they voted nearly two-to-one for President-elect Donald Trump: They are tired of being overlooked. It was a repudiation of institutions many in the heart- land consider elitist and out of touch, says Dee Davis,
president of advocacy group the Center for Rural Strategies.
Corporations, the media, and the government are part of that
equation; so, too, are foundations and nonprofits, which he says
have largely ignored rural concerns.
While nearly a fifth of the U.S. population lives in rural areas,
a Department of Agriculture study last year found that about 6
percent of grants from the nation’s largest 1,200 foundations went
to rural health, development, and agriculture programs.
Struggling Rural Americans