There is more bad news as the secretive Republicans merge the House and Senate versions of their heinous tax legislation and turn it into a vehicle to make “dark money” political contributions tax deductible – forcing taxpayers to cover a large share of the cost of their corrupting influence on American politics, reports CNN.
“Dark money” refers to the unlimited fund’s billionaires and corporations have been allowed to spend on political candidates and political action committees (PAC’s) since the Supreme Courts Citizens United ruling in 2010,
It is “dark money” because much of the funds from the ultra-conservative Koch brothers, Robert Mercer and others pass through a series of shell organizations until it is virtually impossible to know where the money came from, which has become a huge perversion of the transparency that used to be a keystone of the American political system.
Dark Money Donations Made EASIER By GOP Tax Bill – @EmmaVigeland reports
— TYT Politics (@TYTPolitics) December 12, 2017
This dangerous change began with President Trump, who was the beneficiary of millions in dark money in the 2016 election, and since his election has worked to allow churches – especially evangelicals who have strongly supported him – to be able to play a larger role in politics without losing their tax-exempt status.
The law that stops churches from being more politically active passed in 1954 is called the Johnson Act, after then-Senator Lyndon Johnson, who wanted to ensure that nonprofit groups cannot use their tax exempt status to participate in politics.
Brendan Fischer of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center told CNN that the Johnson Amendment “protects charities and churches from some of the pressures associated with partisan political activity.”
In the version of Trump’s tax bill that the Republicans in the House passed in November, there is an amendment which repeals the Johnson Amendment as it relates to churches.
According to CNN, during the current conference behind closed doors to combine the Senate and Hosue versions of the tax bill, that has now been expanded to open the door for all nonprofits to become more politically active, and to spend money on political activity.
“The results critics say,” reports CNN, “could effectively let people deduct de-factor political donations and further hide those donations and spending from the public.”
Trump has already signed an executive order to allow churches to speak out much more on politics but because of the Johnson Amendment, they still were limited in their ability to spend money on candidates and political issues. This addition to the tax bill would allow them to spend as much taxpayer-subsidized funds as they like on politics.
Now that the language in the tax bill has been expanded to cover not just churches but also all nonprofits, it makes it easy for the super rich looking to influence elections and the government to make unlimited donations without anyone knowing where the money actually originated.
Campaigning from the pulpit is abuse of power. That's why we need the Johnson Amendment, which the GOP tax bill kills. Bad faith, @gop.
— Tamara Winters (@tamaraneo) November 2, 2017
This change would also cost the government since billionaires could now effectively write off their political contributions on their taxes. The nonpartisan Joint Committee On Taxation estimates the cost would be over $2 billion during the next decade.
One big concern is that this would encourage the creation of “sham” churches and charities, reports CNN, to hide the now tax-deductible donations.
“Given what we know about the law,” says Fischer, “we think this would open the door to tax deductible dark money.”
Another concern is that existing churches and nonprofits would be corrupted, reports CNN, as “billions would likely be diverted form Super PACs into charities. And the new money could come with strings attached. Donors would be free to make donations to a charity or religious organization contingent on the group supporting a certain piece of legislation or candidate.”
“Any kind of deal, explicit or handshake,” said Ian Vandewalker of the Brennan Center for Justice, “could be made and the voters would never know about it simply because there’s no disclosure of where the money is coming from.”
The Campaign Legal Center estimates at least $800 million in dark money has been spent on politics since the Citizens United ruling seven years ago. Now a lot of that money could flow into tax-deductible 501(c)(3) groups.
“For the first time in history,” says Tim Delaney, chairman of the National Council of Nonprofits, “it would make campaign contributions tax deductible. It will completely change American politics and certainly alter forever the independence of charitable nonprofits.”
For the billionaires who are already positioned to benefit more than anyone else from the Trump tax bill – lowering their personal taxes and those of the giant global conglomerates they run – this would be another benefit that will give them ever greater power in politics, and through that, over how our country operates.
If you have been paying attention as Trump has worked to undermine and defund the social net first created by Franklin D. Roosevelt and expanded by Lyndon Johnson – taking away benefits to help the elderly, the handicapped, children, students, minorities and others – then you can imagine how much worse this change would make it for all those in need of a helping hand.
That is terrible news for the rest of America.