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American Life League–Laying Out Specific Criteria for Judging Candidates–Egregiously Violates Federal IRS Regulations

November 6, 2006

Catholics for a Free Choice Asks that the IRS Holds Group Accountable for Repeatedly Violating the Law

Washington, DC—Catholics for a Free Choice today filed a complaint with the IRS following the last minute pre-election publication of the American Life League’s “voter guide,” requesting that the IRS swiftly strip the organization of its tax-exempt status in light of its egregious violations of rules governing the behavior of nonprofits in elections.

The American Life League’s voter guide identifies four issues as “non-negotiables” and advises readers that, if a candidate does not measure up on all four issues, “That candidate, no matter how right he is on other topics, should not receive your vote.” The guide thus acts as a tacit, but clear, endorsement of some candidates over others based on the criteria outlined by the American Life League.

Such behavior is not allowed for 501(c)(3) non-profits, which benefit from the ability to take in tax-free donations from their supporters. American Life League’s actions are a disingenuous attempt to skirt the regulations by which every other 501(c)(3) must abide. As explained in the IRS professional education article on “Election Year Issues,” a 501(c)(3) may not make a communication that “invites its audience to compare a candidate’s positions with the organization’s own views.” (Judith E. Kindell and John Francis Reilly, “Election Year Issues,” IRS Continuing Professional Education Manual for FY 2002 at 376.) That aptly describes this voter guide.

American Life League, however, is not alone in ignoring both the letter and the spirit of the law by producing and promoting legally questionable voter’s guides. Other antichoice groups have published similar voter’s guides this year, including Priests for Life and Catholic Answers.  Catholic Answers, already facing an IRS investigation, created a admittedly political 501(c)(4) group, catholic Answers Action, to oversee the production and distribution of its voter guide, a division that still seems to be more cosmetic than actual.  CFFC filed a complaint with the IRS over their electioneering activities on October 3, 2006.

President of Catholics for a Free Choice, Frances Kissling, comments, “there has been a dramatic upsurge in questionable voter guides by Catholic groups, almost as if these groups are hoping their actions will generate a test case. The IRS cannot allow such blatant disregard for election laws to continue. Being religiously-oriented organizations does not absolve these groups of their responsibility to follow federal laws.  The American Life League’s late entry into the field must be addressed. It needs to learn that campaign regulations are for everyone.”