120 AtMPers emailed Congress last week, asking that the stimulus bill include domestic partners in its expansion of Cobra affordability. On Monday I called Senator Sue Collin’s office (because she has expressed support for domestic partners and because she had a high-profile role in the stimulus compromise). Her staff said that there were already 500 amendments proposed so there is no chance that they could squeeze in an amendment guaranteeing Cobra for domestic partners. But, we’ve started the conversation.
Although we didn’t win Cobra guarantees for domestic partners, we did raise awareness about yet another example of marital status discrimination, and we strengthened some alliances and made new contacts in Washington. This is a good example of AtMP’s increased focus on advocacy. Some members have asked whether this is lobbying, whether it’s allowed, and whether they could be personally targetted as donors they way people were in the aftermath of Prop 8.
Yes, it’s lobbying; yes, it’s allowed. AtMP’s tax status is 501c3, and we have filed the proper forms with the IRS so we’re allowed to use up to 20% of our cash expenses telling decision makers how to vote on specific legislation, and we’re allowed to use up to 5% of our cash expenses urging people to tell their lawmakers how to vote.
No, our donors do not have to be identified if they don’t want to be. Anyone can donate anonymously. We list non-anonymous donors in our annual reports, which we mail to the donors and post online. But we do not send a list of donors to the IRS or any state regulator.
I asked the Alliance for Justice how to explain what happened with Prop 8; their response is so helpful that I’m quoting it entirely (with permission):
The reason this issue can get a little confusing is that there are two completely separate laws working here. The federal tax law that governs your 501(c)(3) status (and limits how much you can lobby under the 501(h) election) is different from the California campaign finance laws that require disclosure of some donors to ballot measure committees.
Under federal tax law, your work on ballot measures is treated as lobbying, and all you have to worry about is staying within your lobbying limits. California campaign finance law (California’s Political Reform Act) requires disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures in connection with state and local elections, including ballot measure elections. Even though you as a 501(c)(3) are staying within your lobbying limits, you still also have to comply with the California disclosure laws if you engage in certain activities around ballot measures. You can see various campaign disclosure manuals that apply to different types of ballot measure committees on the California Fair Political Practices Commission website: http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.html?id=505#cam.
The reason that the Prop 8 donors are being disclosed has to do with California’s campaign disclosure laws; these donors were solicited by nonprofits that had become ballot measure committees, but not all nonprofits that work on ballot measures automatically become ballot measure committees. You have to do certain things and raise money a certain way in order to be classified as a ballot measure committee. I’m being very general right now, because these laws can get pretty complicated.
Today AtMP is helping Virginians advocate for recognition of family diversity in school curricula. This campaign was initiated by just one member – she keeps an eye on state government, emailed me with a ‘heads up’ last month and called me yesterday to make it urgent. Meanwhile, volunteers in New York are planning a campaign for better hospital rights. Go grassroots activists!