Bridgeport Generation Now claims to be non-partisan, but the organization’s involvement with State Senator Marilyn Moore’s campaign for mayor is taking on a significant partisan glow that’s raising questions about its credibility that could also lead to legal repercussions for the community group’s 501(c)(3) status under the Internal Revenue Code.
— The organization’s offshoot entity has leveraged its financial resources to file a lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the September 10th Democratic primary in which Moore won the machine count but lost via absentee ballots to Mayor Joe Ganim.
— The group’s co-director Gemeem Davis has taken “a leave of absence” to manage Moore’s campaign.
— Callie Heilmann, the group’s co-founder, hosted a fundraiser for Moore.
— Several members of Generation Now have contributed to Moore’s campaign.
— Moore was honored by the organization at its first annual fundraising event in May.
(Full disclosure: I was a guest speaker at the event.)
There’s nothing wrong with a community group advocating on behalf of a candidate, but claiming non-partisanship when the group is blurring lines as a shadow organization raises at the very least questions about its credibility, fundraising efforts and status under IRS regulations.
It’s hard to claim non-partisan when group leaders–under the guise of individuals–are advocating for Moore.
News 8 reporter George Colli ambushed Generation Now during its news conference extolling the filing of its primary results lawsuit.
See the video above and full report here.
Bridgeport Generation Now describes itself is a “nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization.”
Internal Revenue Code regulations:
To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.
Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are commonly referred to as charitable organizations. Organizations described in section 501(c)(3), other than testing for public safety organizations, are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions in accordance with Code section 170.
The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any organization managers agreeing to the transaction.
Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct. For a detailed discussion, see Political and Lobbying Activities. For more information about lobbying activities by charities, see the article Lobbying Issues; for more information about political activities of charities, see the FY-2002 CPE topic Election Year Issues.
Niels Heilmann, treasurer of Bridgeport Generation Now and husband of Callie Heilmann shares this observation:
The legal action is being supported by the work of Bridgeport Generation Now Votes, a separate entity from the 501c3. No 501c3 protected donation dollars have been used in this endeavor. You received a press release in August announcing the formation of that entity and why it was being established. I’m unclear why that information was ignored in the writing of this post. The laws and regulations governing c3 and c4 interactions have been followed and are summarized in this document: https://www.afj.org/press-room/press-releases/bolder-advocacy-the-connection-new-edition-is-vital-guide-for-nonprofits-in-election-year-2