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Children’s Museum left city – but not city politics

August 23, 2014 | By | Comments More

300-IRS-FILE-DRAWERUnder the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.

An e-mail was distributed this week by Susan Connor; a member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer of Children’s Museum of St. Johns, Inc., a Florida nonprofit corporation, registered as a tax-exempt organization with the Internal Revenue Service. Another e-mail was distributed by the Executive Director, Kim MacEwan, which included the content of the Connor e-mail.

The subject line of both e-mail messages was “Subject: Please vote Tuesday August 26th…but not for Nancy Shaver”.

According to The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

The first sentence of the Connor e-mail begins, “I am writing to you on behalf of the Children’s Museum …”

According to The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations, public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

The fundraising efforts of Children’s Museum have been controversial since it began accepting tax-deductible, charitable donations in 2007. It has been soliciting money to build an actual museum for years with some success. However, the virtual museum has only recently announced its plans to locate to property outside the city limits after a failed attempt, supported by incumbent mayor Joe Boles, to build as part of an aquarium project on city-owned property that is a covered landfill at Riberia Point. EPA concerns and public opposition, largely from neighbors in the Lincolnville community, killed both projects.

The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations quotes were last updated and reviewed on the Internal Revenue Service website on March 5, 2014.

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