Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Advocate’s Guide to Elections

The Alliance for Biking and Walking just published An Advocate’s Guide to Elections: Making Campaigns Work for Bicycling & Walking. There are very few local elections this year, but the guide will be an excellent resource in upcoming elections.

For the 2007 Board of Supervisors election we conducted a survey of the Board of Supervisor candidates that provided good information to voters. As a non-profit we have to be careful not to support or favor specific candidates but we can provide voters with information. The guide will be very useful for figuring out what can be done under current 501(c)3 guidelines.
Organizations with 501(c)(3) nonprofit status are prohibited from engaging in political activity in support of or in opposition to any particular political candidate. However, 501(c)(3)s can engage in nonpartisan voter education activity and a limited amount of lobbying.

These guidelines relate to the organization itself, and do not prohibit officers, individual members, or employees from participating, as long as they are acting as private citizens and not as spokespersons for the organization or while using the organization’s resources. If you choose to identify yourself with the organization, you must make it plain that you are speaking solely for yourself and not for the organization. If members do not identify themselves with the organization, but a media outlet does, the members have done nothing wrong.

Here are some guidelines for how bike clubs and advocacy organizations with 501(c)(3) status can (and cannot) get involved in election activities.

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