[Owasp-leaders] [Owasp-board] [Owasp-community] IAB Statement on the Trade in Security Technologies

Jerry Hoff jerry.hoff at whitehatsec.com
Mon Jun 22 14:08:50 UTC 2015


Exactly - seemed to have gone from "let's publicly voice an position for the common good" to "we can't say anything for fear of losing our 501(c)(3) status on grounds of lobbying all branches of the U.S. Govt".

So although I think it was a needed discussion, I suggest we steer clear from further reductio ad absurdums and establish a mechanism in which the foundation can voice concerns.

Jerry

On Jun 22, 2015, at 06:22, Eoin Keary <eoin.keary at owasp.org<mailto:eoin.keary at owasp.org>> wrote:

+100 Tobias.
Charities such as Amnesty International, Green Peace etc also make statements which are in line with their mission and also help drive the organisation achieving its goal.
I'm unsure where lobbying / political activitisim needs to fit in here. It's more about speaking out for what the foundation believes in.


Eoin Keary
OWASP Volunteer
@eoinkeary



On 22 Jun 2015, at 11:47, Tobias <tobias.gondrom at owasp.org<mailto:tobias.gondrom at owasp.org>> wrote:

Guys,

just fyi: we had this discussion before. Last time in January 2014.
And I believe reading the material provided by Jim at the time, we can in fact determine that OWASP can make statements that are in line with our mission.

IMHO: It is good to be cautious in life, but to be so cautious as to remain silent on topics that are relevant and will be a problem for the security of the web and the Internet as a whole is IMHO a mistake.

For the full and detailed analysis from our discussion in Jan 2014, please refer to here:
http://lists.owasp.org/pipermail/owasp-board/2014-January/012872.html

In short:
""Your organization can engage in legislative advocacy and issue-related advocacy, as long as it follows certain rules and steers clear of political campaigning. " (for those interested in what these certain rules are: that a non-profit does not have "substantial part" of its overall activities relates to influencing legislation or carrying on propaganda. Roughly anything under 5% of the overall budget is considered not substantial, while expenditures of above 15% would probably be considered substantial - e.g. 5% would be with our current budget size spending of more than USD 100.000(!) on lobbying....)

We are free and safe to advocate our mission and to make public statements to communicate our mission. (And nobody would want for OWASP to politically campaign for the next candidate for presidency, governor,
mayor or political party of any country.)"


Furthermore: that's also the reason why the IAB/IETF has no problem at all making this statement....
And the Internet Society which is basically the "communication" arm of the IETF (and a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt charitable organization, http://www.internetsociety.org/tax-exempt-charitable-organization) has no problems engaging in political debate about an open and secure Internet. And in fact is doing that very effectively.

Best regards, Tobias



On 22/06/15 03:57, Jim Manico wrote:
Jerry,

Per IRS guidelines, it's not just about lobbying politicians. The limit is also on trying to influence legislation. The original IAB link from Tobias was about export control law (ie: legislation) which is why I emailed words of caution.

- Jim


On 6/21/15 3:52 PM, Jerry Hoff wrote:
Just to be clear again - no one in this entire thread (that I have read at least) has suggested we actively lobby politicians. Putting out a statement on proposed legislation is not the same as actively lobbying government as defined below.

The entire thread is based on Jeff's statement that  OWASP should put out a single statement similar to the IAB's.  That's it.  I'm not sure how the conversation has drifted so substantially from that  request.

--
Jerry Hoff
jerry at owasp.com<mailto:jerry at owasp.com>
@jerryhoff

On Jun 21, 2015, at 21:42, Jim Manico <jim.manico at owasp.org<mailto:jim.manico at owasp.org>> wrote:

And in the interest in fairness, here is the counter-point as to why we should do MORE lobbying at OWASP.

http://www.asaecenter.org/Resources/whitepaperdetail.cfm?ItemNumber=12202

1. 501(c)(3)s cannot lobby and will lose their tax exemption if they engage in lobbying.

Absolutely not. 501(c)(3) organizations can, and often should, lobby at all levels of government. Federal tax law has always permitted some lobbying by nonprofits. The 1976 lobbying tax law passed by Congress made that expressly clear. The Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") followed with implementing regulations. The federal government clearly supports lobbying by 501(c)(3) organizations. Together, the law and regulations provide wide latitude for 501(c)(3) organizations to lobby.

The law makes it very clear how much a 501(c)(3) organization can spend on lobbying - up to $1 million depending on the size of the organization - if the 501(h) election is made. The law also makes it clear which activities are lobbying and which are not. For example, lobbying occurs only when there is an expenditure of money by the 501(c)(3) for the purpose of attempting to influence legislation. Where there is no expenditure by the organization for lobbying (such as lobbying by members or volunteers), there is no lobbying by the organization.

The right of citizens to petition their government is basic to our democratic way of life, and associations, including 501(c)(3)s, are one of the most effective vehicles for making use of citizen participation in shaping public policy. Fortunately, the legislation passed by Congress in 1976 makes it possible for 501(c)(3)s to lobby freely for the causes, communities and constituencies they serve.

Generally, organizations that make the 501(h) election under the 1976 lobbying law may spend 20% of the first $500,000 of their annual expenditures on lobbying ($100,000), 15% of the next $500,000, and so on, up to $1 million dollars.

Finally, by not engaging in lobbying, your organization may be failing to employ a very important activity that could be enormously helpful in carrying out its mission.


On 6/21/15 3:32 PM, Jerry Hoff wrote:
Agreed - but I was under the strong impression this entire discussion was on putting out a statement similar to the IAB.  Apologies if I misunderstood. I was voicing support on that specific action.

I didn't see anywhere in the thread (though I may have missed it) anyone advocating political campaigning or to change the OWASP charter such that influencing legislation would be a substantial activity.

--
Jerry Hoff
jerry at owasp.com<mailto:jerry at owasp.com>
@jerryhoff

On Jun 21, 2015, at 21:25, Jim Manico <jim.manico at owasp.org<mailto:jim.manico at owasp.org>> wrote:

Jerry,

I'm a fan of OWASP taking technical stands such as the IAB Statement on Internet Confidentiality https://www.iab.org/2014/11/14/iab-statement-on-internet-confidentiality/ and similar.

What our 501(c)(3) foundation needs to to steer clear of from my understanding is...

1) ... not to engage in political campaigning
2) ... not to attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of our activities

I am no fan of NACL's but this is a very important topic.

The exact quote from the IRS is (http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organizations/Exemption-Requirements-Section-501(c)(3)-Organizations)<http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organizations/Exemption-Requirements-Section-501%28c%29%283%29-Organizations%29>

"...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..."

So as long as our "official foundation statement" on this matter steers clear of these issues, I will support it.

We will be discussing this at the June 24th meeting, I hope you can make it.

https://www.owasp.org/index.php/June_24,_2015

Aloha,
Jim

On 6/21/15 3:16 PM, Jerry Hoff wrote:
I believe this debate is based off wrong assumptions - for example the EFF is 501(c)(3) and that does not prevent them from taking a position on relevant issues as an organization.

--
Jerry Hoff
jerry at owasp.com<mailto:jerry at owasp.com>
@jerryhoff

On Jun 21, 2015, at 21:05, Jim Manico <jim.manico at owasp.org<mailto:jim.manico at owasp.org>> wrote:

With respect, I disagree with your take on this Jeff. Official OWASP public statements should be done with care.

Also, this issue is not resolved yet and I am simply stating *my opinion* on the matter backed by research and references to IRS guidelines discussing this matter. And again I've stated that this is a nebulous area even by IRS regulation.

We are discussing this at the June 24 board meeting - a meeting in which I hope that you and the community attend.

Making a big statement like this as an official message of the OWASP foundation - especial since it's political in nature - does in my opinion require board discussion. I know you want us to "jump on this" immediately - and we are Jeff - in just a few days.

In fact, if the language is crafted in a way that keeps clear of specific legislation, I will likely vote to push this out. I agree with it 100%, I am only concerned if it's the right thing for OWASP to be making such a public statement.

It is critical for all of us in OWASP leadership to be aware of the limits of what a 501(c)(3) should be doing, and when I hear that the members of foundation want OWASP to make a public and politically charged statement of intent, I think it's crucial for the board to be a part of it since the board holds legal responsibility for the operations of the foundation.

See you June 24th?

https://www.owasp.org/index.php/June_24,_2015

Aloha,
Jim





On 6/21/15 2:47 PM, Jeff Williams wrote:
This is a false dichotomy -- OWASP can and should do both. The Board should work to assist and support *any* idea consistent with our mission...even if...especially if... you don't think it will work.

You can't let *your* judgement influence the decision to support a project. If you do, then all we will ever get is Board ideas.  And, respectfully, I don't trust you or any other individual to think up the next great AppSec idea.

The Board shouldn't interfere at all unless somebody is doing something harmful to the organization or the mission. And even then should try to figure out a productive path for that energy.

Again respectfully, you should get out of the way.

--Jeff



On Sun, Jun 21, 2015 at 5:27 PM -0700, "Jim Manico" <jim.manico at owasp.org<mailto:jim.manico at owasp.org>> wrote:

Jeff,

My take on this is that "talk is cheap" and that "actions are more powerful words". I'd rather keep out of legislation and focus on making important projects like ESAPI, ASVS, Security Shepard and others more powerful.

I am sorry you are disappointed in current board action, but there is good reason behind the perspective I am stating. Also, this is my opinion alone, not the entire boards.

Again, take a look at Whisper Systems. They are providing incredibly well created and well assessed open source projects for secure communications. These open source projects are now being integrated into various Operating Systems and other projects.

If ESAPI was not a abandoned, it could have been serving our mission - planet level. I want to see it and other key projects revived and well funded.

The power of a well built security project is worth more than a thousand words. Talk is cheap. Actions that change the world take sweat, blood and staying the course even when it's no longer financially beneficial to do so.

Respectfully,
--
Jim Manico
Global Board Member
OWASP Foundation
https://www.owasp.org
Join me at AppSecUSA<http://appsecusa.org/> 2015 in San Francisco!

On Jun 21, 2015, at 2:12 PM, Jeff Williams <jeff.williams at owasp.org<mailto:jeff.williams at owasp.org>> wrote:

For the record, the IAB is part of the IETF, which *is* a 501c3.  Even though 501c3 organizations *can* do some lobbying (as long as expenditures are not substantial), the IAB is careful not to talk about legislation or urge anyone to contact representatives about legislation.
As the creator and longtime Chair of the OWASP Board, I'm frustrated that the current Board isn't falling over themselves to support efforts like this.  IMO the whole purpose of the Board is to create a great platform to support and amplify the efforts of anyone willing to contribute to our important cause. Does't matter the topic, but instead of saying no or criticizing ideas or projects, figure out a way to make it work or make them better.
In this case, and a million other topics, it would be incredibly easy to stick to the technical realities and feasibility of any approaches being discussed in the news.  No need to mention legislation.
--Jeff

Jeff Williams | CTO
Contrast Security
410.707.1487<tel:410.707.1487> | @planetlevel @contrastsec


_____________________________
From: Jim Manico <jim.manico at owasp.org<mailto:jim.manico at owasp.org>>
Sent: Sunday, June 21, 2015 7:37 PM
Subject: Re: [Owasp-leaders] [Owasp-community] [Owasp-board] IAB Statement on the Trade in Security Technologies
To: McGovern, James <james.mcgovern at hp.com<mailto:james.mcgovern at hp.com>>
Cc: <owasp-community at lists.owasp.org<mailto:owasp-community at lists.owasp.org>>, OWASP Board List <owasp-board at lists.owasp.org<mailto:owasp-board at lists.owasp.org>>, owasp-leaders <owasp-leaders at lists.owasp.org<mailto:owasp-leaders at lists.owasp.org>>


I will - for sure - put this on the June 24th Board meeting agenda. My opinion (based on research over the years trying to understand my duty to the foundation) is to keep AWAY from any even slight attempt to influence legislation.

In general I see projects, documentation efforts and  conferences doing much to unite us in our shared mission. But start discussing politics and it will go a long way to divide us as a community.

I suggest that we focus on •doing something• vs •saying something•.

Imagine funding open source projects similar to Whisper Systems or enhancing our documentation projects to be much more up to date and relevant our building professional open source training material? This is how I think the foundation can best face these issues while at the same time serve our mission while at the same time keep away from influencing legislation. :)

And for what it's worth, I strongly dislike the fact that I'm bringing these things up. I'm not trying to ruin anyones party here. But I do feel it's my duty as your elected board member to do so.

Aloha,
--
Jim Manico
Global Board Member
OWASP Foundation
https://www.owasp.org
Join me at AppSecUSA<http://appsecusa.org/> 2015 in San Francisco!

On Jun 21, 2015, at 1:23 PM, McGovern, James < james.mcgovern at hp.com<mailto:james.mcgovern at hp.com>> wrote:

Jim, while you are going to the board for legal clarification, please inquire:

1. 501c3 is a US thing. Can we influence non-US government and still comply?
2. Understanding the US political issues sometimes will put us on a partisan path. For example, in CT I have commented in the past in a political context on why smart guns are just plain stupid. This particular issue leans more conservative/libertarian than it does Liberal. Therefore, we must attempt to understand the flow of politics on any given Sunday.
3. Maybe we could somehow solve this by having a policy that encourages legislators of all parties to reach out to their local chapter leader for an informed opinion.

-----Original Message-----
From: owasp-community-bounces at lists.owasp.org<mailto:owasp-community-bounces at lists.owasp.org> [mailto:owasp-community-bounces at lists.owasp.org] On Behalf Of Jim Manico
Sent: Saturday, June 20, 2015 4:37 PM
To: Kevin W. Wall
Cc: OWASP Board List; owasp-community at lists.owasp.org<mailto:owasp-community at lists.owasp.org>; owasp-leaders
Subject: Re: [Owasp-community] [Owasp-board] IAB Statement on the Trade in Security Technologies

I agree with you Kevin. Even the IRS is cagey about this topic.

However, this is an organization risk that I feel we should be aware of before charging to far into policy. It would behoove is to get legal review before going to far. I'll bring this up at the next board meeting.

Aloha,
--
Jim Manico
@Manicode
(808) 652-3805<tel:%28808%29%20652-3805>

On Jun 20, 2015, at 9:47 AM, Kevin W. Wall <kevin.w.wall at gmail.com<mailto:kevin.w.wall at gmail.com>> wrote:

Jim,

On Sat, Jun 20, 2015 at 2:55 PM, Jim Manico <jim.manico at owasp.org<mailto:jim.manico at owasp.org>> wrote:
That is fair Michael.

But I do want to warn the community that this is a slippery slope, we
are being watched, and trying to influence legislation is one of the
few ways OWASP can lose it's charitable status. And if that happens,
the debate about what to do with our funds will quickly change for the worse.

I don't think that it is impossible for charitable organizations to
comment on public possible without loosing their 501(c)(3) status, but
it just has to be done in the right way. (However, IANAL, so I don't
even begin to know the details of what that "right way" would entail.)

As a case in point, the ACM has a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status, and
yet their public policy arm--the USACM--has certainly tried to
influence public policy. (Recall the crypto debate from the late
1990s? The USACM and IEEE wrote a letter to Sen. John McCain to try to
influence the US legislation not to pass laws to mandate weak
encryption. E.g., see
<http://usacm.acm.org/privsec/details.cfm?type=Letters&id=18&cat=8&Pri
vacy%20and%20Security>.)

So I'm guessing that the devil is in the details of how it is done.
In fact, according to Spaf's blog at
<https://www.cerias.purdue.edu/site/blog/post/deja_vu_all_over_again_t
he_attack_on_encryption/> the USACM is going through this same this
this again. Like I said, I am not a lawyer and maybe this attempt to
influence public policy doesn't strictly qualify as "lobbying" in the
eyes of the IRS. But it certainly doesn't seem impossible.

Also, we can--and should--all speak out strongly against things that
we believe are against the OWASP mission, but we don't have to do it
in a manner as representing OWASP. Do that on your personal blogs or
social media instead of OWASP mailing lists and there shouldn't be an
issue, especially if you add a short disclaimer as to how your opinion
does not necessarily affect the opinion of OWASP overall (in the cases when there might be some doubt).

So perhaps if we decide that we officially want to speak out on
certain public policy as an organization in order to influence public
policy in accordance with our mission statements, then someone who
understands the nuances of the 501(c)(3) IRS regulations could help
OWASP navigate these waters.

-kevin
--
Blog: http://off-the-wall-security.blogspot.com/
NSA: All your crypto bit are belong to us.
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