[Owasp-leaders] Mozilla speaks up. Should OWASP?

Tiffany Long tiffany.long at owasp.org
Tue Jan 31 18:42:32 UTC 2017


This is a concern that will come up repeatedly.  This is, I think, the most
salient point of understanding what OWASP can and cannot do as an
organization:

*Issue Advocacy vs. Political Campaign Intervention*

Under federal tax law, section 501(c)(3) organizations may take positions
on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an
election for public office.  However, section 501(c)(3) organizations must
avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political campaign
intervention.  Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to
vote for or against a specific candidate, an organization delivering the
statement is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention
prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate.  A
statement can identify a candidate not only by stating the candidate’s name
but also by other means such as showing a picture of the candidate,
referring to political party affiliations, or other distinctive features of
a candidate’s platform or biography.   All the facts and circumstances need
to be considered to determine if the advocacy is political campaign
intervention.

Key factors in determining whether a communication results in political
campaign intervention include the following:
• Whether  the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given
public office;
• Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval for one or more
candidates’ positions and/or actions;
• Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election;
• Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election;
• Whether the issue addressed in the communication has been raised as an
issue distinguishing candidates for a given office;
• Whether the communication is part of an ongoing series of communications
by the organization on the same issue that are made independent of the
timing of any election; and
• Whether the timing of the communication and identification of the
candidate are related to a non-electoral event such as a scheduled vote on
specific legislation by an officeholder who also happens to be a candidate
for public office.

A communication is particularly at risk of political campaign intervention
when it makes reference to candidates or voting in a specific upcoming
election.  Nevertheless, the communication must still be considered in
context before arriving at any conclusions.

Example 14: University O, a section 501(c)(3) organization, prepares and
finances a full page newspaper advertisement that is published in several
large circulation newspapers in State V shortly before an election in which
Senator C is a candidate for nomination in a party primary.  Senator C
represents State V in the United States Senate.  The advertisement states
that S. 24, a pending bill in the United States Senate, would provide
additional opportunities for State V residents to attend college, but
Senator C has opposed similar measures in the past.  The advertisement ends
with the statement “Call or write Senator C to tell him to vote for S.
24.”  Educational issues have not been raised as an issue distinguishing
Senator C from any opponent.  S. 24 is scheduled for a vote in the United
States Senate before the election, soon after the date that the
advertisement is published in the newspapers.  Even though the
advertisement appears shortly before the election and identifies Senator
C’s position on the issue as contrary to O’s position, University O has not
violated the political campaign intervention prohibition because the
advertisement does not mention the election or the candidacy of Senator C,
education issues have not been raised as distinguishing Senator C from any
opponent, and the timing of the advertisement and the identification of
Senator C are directly related to the specifically identified legislation
University O is supporting and appears immediately before the United States
Senate is scheduled to vote on that particular legislation.  The candidate
identified, Senator C, is an officeholder who is in a position to vote on
the legislation.

Example 15: Organization R, a section 501(c)(3) organization that educates
the public about the need for improved public education, prepares and
finances a radio advertisement urging an increase in state funding for
public education in State X, which requires a legislative appropriation.
Governor E is the governor of State X.  The radio advertisement is first
broadcast on several radio stations in State X beginning shortly before an
election in which Governor E is a candidate for re election. The
advertisement is not part of an ongoing series of substantially similar
advocacy communications by Organization R on the same issue.   The
advertisement cites numerous statistics indicating that public education in
State X is under funded.  While the advertisement does not say anything
about Governor E’s position on funding for public education, it ends with
“Tell Governor E what you think about our under-funded schools.”  In public
appearances and campaign literature, Governor E’s opponent has made funding
of public education an issue in the campaign by focusing on Governor E’s
veto of an income tax increase the previous year to increase funding of
public education.  At the time the advertisement is broadcast, no
legislative vote or other major legislative activity is scheduled in the
State X legislature on state funding of public education.  Organization R
has violated the political campaign prohibition because the advertisement
identifies Governor E, appears shortly before an election in which Governor
E is a candidate, is not part of an ongoing series of substantially similar
advocacy communications by Organization R on the same issue, is not timed
to coincide with a non election event such as a legislative vote or other
major legislative action on that issue, and takes a position on an issue
that the opponent has used to distinguish himself from Governor E.

Example 16:  Candidate A and Candidate B are candidates for the state
senate in District W of State X.  The issue of State X funding for a new
mass transit project in District W is a prominent issue in the campaign.
Both candidates have spoken out on the issue.  Candidate A supports for the
new mass transit project.  Candidate B opposes the project and supports
State X funding for highway improvements instead.  P is the executive
director of C, a section 501(c)(3) organization that promotes community
development in District W.  At C’s annual fundraising dinner in District W,
which takes place in the month before the election in State X, P gives a
lengthy speech about community development issues including the
transportation issues.  P does not mention the name of any candidate or any
political party.  However, at the conclusion of the speech, P makes the
following statement, “For those of you who care about quality of life in
District W and the growing traffic congestion, there is a very important
choice coming up next month.  We need new mass transit.  More highway
funding will not make a difference.  You have the power to relieve the
congestion and improve your quality of life in District W.  Use that power
when you go to the polls and cast your vote in the election for your state
senator.”  C has violated the political campaign intervention as a result
of P's remarks at C's official function shortly before the election, in
which P referred to the upcoming election after stating a position on an
issue that is a prominent issue in a campaign that distinguishes the
candidates.

https://www.irs.gov/uac/election-year-activities-and-the-prohibition-on-political-campaign-intervention-for-section-501-c-3-organizations


Tiffany Long
Community Manager

On Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 10:35 AM, Arturo 'Buanzo' Busleiman <
buanzo at buanzo.com.ar> wrote:

> Some useful links:
>
> https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-
> organizations/published-guidance-on-political-
> campaign-activity-of-501-c-3-organizations
>
> https://www.irs.gov/uac/election-year-activities-and-
> the-prohibition-on-political-campaign-intervention-for-
> section-501-c-3-organizations
>
> https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-
> organizations/the-restriction-of-political-campaign-
> intervention-by-section-501-c-3-tax-exempt-organizations
>
> A non-official analysis: https://www.nolo.com/legal-
> encyclopedia/limits-political-campaigning-501c3-nonprofits-29982.html
>
>
> On Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 3:30 PM, Tiffany Long <tiffany.long at owasp.org>
> wrote:
>
>> Arturo,
>>
>> Due to domestic and international laws governing non-profits and our
>> 501(c)(3) status in the US Chapters are not allowed to advocate
>> political or policy positions nor can they sign contracts for the
>> foundation.
>>
>> Best,
>> Tiffany
>>
>> Tiffany Long
>> Community Manager
>>
>> On Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 10:23 AM, Arturo 'Buanzo' Busleiman <
>> buanzo at buanzo.com.ar> wrote:
>>
>>> If I may drop an opinion, each OWASP *US* Chapter should be free to
>>> speak out, if the chapter's leadership so vote/decide/etc it. And OWASP
>>> should not need to declare that chapters are free to speak up, I think.
>>>
>>>
>>> On Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 2:44 PM, Tony Turner <tony.turner at owasp.org>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>>> I personally think we should avoid political activity unless it impacts
>>>> our mission. If there are US based activities in support of the OWASP
>>>> mission that are hampered by the ban then we should speak up, but otherwise
>>>> stay out of it. For instance, if 90 days extends longer into the year and
>>>> prevents foreign attendees from coming to AppSecUSA (or other activities,
>>>> but I'm laser focused on Orlando right now) then that creates impact for
>>>> our organization and our mission as a whole. That being said, I think there
>>>> are ways to support our colleagues abroad without condemning the current US
>>>> political leadership.
>>>>
>>>> On Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 10:55 AM, Larry Conklin <
>>>> larry.conklin at owasp.org> wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> Personally I am torn here. Yes I want America safe. However I don't
>>>>> really see the value in a 90 days travel band is going to make America any
>>>>> safer.  Mozilla has spoken up against it. They are in many ways a community
>>>>> like ours. Should OWASP also go on record for support or against the travel
>>>>> ban?
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> *This past weekend the Trump Administration signed an executive order
>>>>> to temporarily suspend travel into the United States for individuals from
>>>>> Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. This is troubling for
>>>>> us as a community on many levels.*
>>>>>
>>>>> *Mozilla is a global community of people sharing ideas and working
>>>>> together. We believe in opportunity for all, freedom of ideas, and that
>>>>> multiculturalism is crucial to building a true global community. This is
>>>>> why Mozilla has taken a public position against the US immigration ban. *
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2017/01/28/us-immigration-ban/
>>>>>
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> OWASP-Leaders mailing list
>>>>> OWASP-Leaders at lists.owasp.org
>>>>> https://lists.owasp.org/mailman/listinfo/owasp-leaders
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> --
>>>> Tony Turner
>>>> OWASP Orlando Chapter Founder/Co-Leader
>>>> WAFEC Project Leader
>>>> STING Game Project Leader
>>>> tony.turner at owasp.org
>>>> https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Orlando
>>>>
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> OWASP-Leaders mailing list
>>>> OWASP-Leaders at lists.owasp.org
>>>> https://lists.owasp.org/mailman/listinfo/owasp-leaders
>>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> OWASP-Leaders mailing list
>>> OWASP-Leaders at lists.owasp.org
>>> https://lists.owasp.org/mailman/listinfo/owasp-leaders
>>>
>>>
>>
>
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