When a video of Kamala Harris went out to over 300 Black churches across Virginia, urging people to vote for former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), some experts believe she violated federal tax law.
“I believe that my friend Terry McAuliffe is the leader Virginia needs at this moment,” Harris says in the video. “Virginians, you deserve a leader who has a vision of what is possible, and the experience to realize that vision. Terry McAuliffe is that leader.”
Experts said that the video violates the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt groups classified in the tax code as 501(c)(3) organizations from “engaging in political activity.”
“Providing access to voting is one thing but telling someone who they should vote for is political activity,” said Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust. “The IRS directly states a church or a nonprofit can not endorse or oppose any political candidate.”
Arnold went on to say that in addition to putting the churches’ tax-exempt status at risk, the video also raises questions about Harris’ ethics.
“It is my opinion the vice president, by engaging in behavior that is directly contrary to IRS law—it does raise ethics questions for her as well,” Arnold said. “It is common knowledge that nonprofits and churches cannot engage in political activity.”
However, according to Arnold, even in cases where a church engages in political activity, the IRS must decide if and how to enforce the law.
“As a practical matter though, the IRS may still not act or could consider remedial action taken by the churches, and not revoke the tax exempt status,” she said.
“Essentially any enforcement of the law will be up to the IRS and that may take time or could not happen at all,” Arnold added.