Washington DC — As Congress prepares to return to session with a looming deadline to fund the government, End Citizens United (ECU) is calling on members of Congress to reject a provision that would allow campaign money to flow through churches.
Under a decades-old law known as the Johnson Amendment, churches, which receive a tax exempt status, cannot endorse political candidates. However, a measure that was snuck into a key spending bill would make it virtually impossible to enforce that part of the law. It would open up the possibility for Big Money donors to use churches to funnel secret money into elections – and get a tax break for doing so. Democrats in the House have introduced three separate amendments to strike the provision.
“Since the 1950s, the Johnson Amendment has allowed churches and charities to carry out their missions free from manipulation by Big Money special interests and partisan politics. But House Republicans have brazenly slipped a dangerous rider into a key spending bill that could turn churches and charities into a pipeline for unlimited, anonymous money into politics.” said ECU President Tiffany Muller. “Congress should reject this provision and adopt an amendment to strip it from the bill.”
The Johnson Amendment measure was included in the House Financial Services appropriations bill, a spending bill with a deadline of September 30. Representatives John Lewis, Beto O’Rourke, as well as Barbara Lee and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have all introduced amendments to remove the rider.
House Republicans are taking a multi-pronged approach to repealing the Johnson Amendment. In addition to the spending bill, Republicans may try to insert another provision targeting the crucial law as part of tax reform.
End Citizens United, along with a diverse coalition of more than 100 faith-based nonprofits and good government groups, sent a letter to members of the House Appropriations Committee urging them to oppose the provision to gut the Johnson Amendment. In July 2016, ECU warned about Trump’s ambitions to allow Big Money interests to use churches as a pass through for unlimited, undisclosed money.