On July 31, the IRS posted to its website a memorandum for exempt organization revenue agents, outlining how they should deal with allegations of political activity on the Internet.
The memo concentrated on links from websites of exempt organizations to those of other related and unrelated groups. According to the IRS, the number of “clicks” or the electronic proximity between an exempt organization and the site of a political message is key in establishing whether an exempt organization is engaging in inappropriate political activity, and the context of the link is another significant consideration. Where the facts and circumstances suggest that a section 501(c)(3) organization is using a link between websites (other than a link to a related section 501(c)(4) organization) to indirectly communicate a message that could be a violation of the law were it done directly, EO will pursue the case. The memo noted that links to related organizations, which may or may not be exempt organizations, can be considered inappropriate political activity if the linking exempt organization “is promoting, encouraging, or urging viewers to use the link to get information about specific candidates and their positions on specific issues.” Recognized factors in making a determination of inappropriate political activity have included: identification of a candidate and statements of approval or disapproval; referring to elections or timing of statements close to an election; and addressing issues that are raised in the context of an election or, alternatively, making statements about issues that are part of “an ongoing series of communications ... made independent of the timing of any election.” See Rev. Rul. 2007-41.