Sierra Club On Dark Money Changes: Don’t Toss Whole Bushel Over Few Bad Apples

While saying that it is still assessing the potential impact of new guidelines for dark money proposed by the Obama administration last week, the environmental group the Sierra Club told TPM on Tuesday that it is “important that the whole bushel doesn’t get thrown out because of a few bad apples.” 

The proposed guidelines made public by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service would create definitions for the kinds of political activity that would not count toward a tax-exempt 501(c)4 organization’s social welfare mission. The Sierra Club is organized as a 501(c)4 — though it does not spend anywhere near as much on politics as dark money giants like the Karl Rove-linked Crossroads GPS. In an emailed statement, the group’s director of strategic partnerships, Cathy Duvall, told TPM the group was still reviewing the proposed changes.

“There is no question that some groups are abusing their tax status to simply dump millions into politics, and that must be reined in,” Duvall wrote. “However, it is important that the whole bushel doesn’t get thrown out because of a few bad apples. Many non-profit organizations across the spectrum – from the Sierra Club to the NRA – were founded decades ago to represent our members and advocate for their beliefs across an array of activities, from citizen engagement to public education to organizing volunteers, while spending only a small fraction of our budget on politics.”

Last week, a progressive umbrella group, the Alliance for Justice, reacted to the administration’s proposal by saying that the changes would “create a danger to citizen participation in our democracy.” Among the Alliance for Justice’s members is The Sierra Club Foundation, a non-profit which provides financial support to the Sierra Club and other groups. 

Read Duvall’s full statement:

We are still reviewing what these preliminary regulations mean for our 2.1 million members and supporters, but we commend the spirit of what the President is trying to achieve. There is no question that some groups are abusing their tax status to simply dump millions into politics, and that must be reined in. However, it is important that the whole bushel doesn’t get thrown out because of a few bad apples. Many non-profit organizations across the spectrum – from the Sierra Club to the NRA – were founded decades ago to represent our members and advocate for their beliefs across an array of activities, from citizen engagement to public education to organizing volunteers, while spending only a small fraction of our budget on politics. We intend to engage in the public comment process to ensure that whatever regulations are finalized protect the rights of our members and respect the principals of our democracy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website?s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl@talkingpointsmemo.com

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK