The Bright Lines Project (BLP) is housed at Public Citizen. Public Citizen funds and staffs the project, but it operates as a consensus project involving a diverse coalition of nonprofit leaders, organizations, and tax law experts.
Built upon five years of discussion and feedback, a committee of nine tax law experts, chaired by Greg Colvin (with Beth Kingsley as vice chair), has developed a set of proposed rules which are designed to clarify the IRS regulations governing nonprofit organizations' political activities.
The Bright Lines Project Approach
- Seeks a middle road, striking a balance between promoting free speech and ensuring that speech closely connected to candidate elections is not subsidized by tax exemption.
- Uses a comprehensive and precise approach to defining political intervention including specific safe harbor exceptions so groups know what does and does not count as political.
- Notes that speech that refers to a candidate and reflects a view on that candidate would be considered political activity, but protects speech focused solely on issues, grass roots lobbying, nonpartisan voter guides, and other defensible forms of expression.
- Adopts a single definition for political intervention that applies to all tax-exempt categories, including charities (501(c)(3)s) for which political intervention is banned), social welfare groups (501(c)(4)s), unions (501(c)(5)s), and trade associations (501(c)(6)s).