Governor Signs Legislation Restricting Non-Profit Corporations from Endorsing or Opposing Any Political Candidate
Bill Codifies the Johnson Amendment Federal Restriction on Non-Profit Corporations Participating or Intervening in Political Campaigns in New York Law
Cuomo: “For too long we have listened to the Trump administration threaten to remove common sense protections prohibiting tax exempt organizations from engaging in inappropriate political activities. New Yorkers have a right to free and fair elections, and this law will further protect our democracy from unjustified interferences once and for all.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.4347/A.623) restricting non-profit corporations from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of or against a candidate running for public office. The measure codifies the federal restriction on non-profit corporations participating or intervening in political campaigns, also known as the Johnson Amendment. Since the Trump administration took office it has repeatedly attempted to weaken the protections provided by the Johnson Amendment, and has continuously misled the public by incorrectly suggesting the Johnson Amendment had been repealed.
“For too long we have listened to the Trump administration threaten to remove common sense protections prohibiting tax exempt organizations from engaging in inappropriate political activities,” Governor Cuomo said. “New Yorkers have a right to free and fair elections, and this law will further protect our democracy from unjustified interferences once and for all.”
The Johnson Amendment has been in place since 1954. It prevents non-profits, including religious organizations, from becoming politicized and endorsing candidates or making donations to campaigns. Recently, there have been efforts by Congress to repeal it, and in May 2017 President Trump signed an Executive Order purporting to loosen the Johnson Amendment’s requirements. In June 2018, the New York Office of the Attorney General filed a civil complaint alleging in part that the Donald J. Trump Foundation had violated the Johnson Amendment’s prohibition on providing support to candidates in office which resulted in the Foundation’s dissolution. Codifying the Johnson Amendment into New York law will ensure that even if Congress repealed it, non-profit corporations in New York State would still be prohibited from engaging in political activity.
Senator Liz Krueger said, “This is a simple bill that serves an important purpose – to keep in place standards we have had in this country for over sixty years that shield not-for-profits and houses of worship from political entanglement. The administration in Washington has repeatedly said they want to repeal these protections, and open the door for big-money donors to launder campaign contributions through churches, mosques, and synagogues. This would politicize non-profits, undermining their focus on their primary missions, and damaging public trust in the non-profit sector. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law today, and making clear that in New York State we know this long-held standard is not broken, and we don’t want Washington to try to ‘fix’ it.”
Assembly Member Amy Paulin said, “The strongest voices defending the Johnson Amendment have come from thousands of nonprofit organizations, charities, churches, synagogues, and other congregations who believe it serves an essential purpose in reassuring the public that their charitable mission warrants their tax-exempt status, and that they conduct themselves with independence and integrity. Thanks to Governor Cuomo and my colleagues in the legislature, New York will now be protected against a potential flood of undisclosed campaign contributions through third parties to sway our elections.”