The CMDI Political Glossary
Nonprofit, tax-exempt groups organized under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code that can engage in varying amounts of political activity, depending on the type of group. Notably, 501(c) groups are not legally required to disclose any information about their donors. Types include:
• 501(c)(3) organization — operate for religious, charitable, scientific or educational purposes. These groups are not supposed to engage in any political activities, though some voter registration activities are permitted.
• 501(c)(4) organization — commonly called “social welfare” organizations. They may engage in political activities, so long as these activities do not become their primary purpose.
• 501(c)(5) labor and agricultural groups, and 501(c)(6) business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards and boards of trade face restrictions similar to 501(c)(4) groups regarding political activities.
A tax-exempt group organized under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code to raise money for political activities including voter mobilization efforts, issue advocacy and the like. Currently, the FEC only requires a 527 group to file regular disclosure reports if it is a political party or political action committee (PAC) that engages in either activities expressly advocating the election or defeat of a federal candidate, or in electioneering communications. Otherwise, it must file either with the government of the state in which it is located or the Internal Revenue Service. The Citizens United vs. FEC ruling allows 527 committees to raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations and unions to expressly advocate for or against federal candidates, and since the controversial ruling, several so-called 527 groups have registered with the FEC as “super PACs.” See also Super PACS.