Doug Wilder, black former Virginia governor, rips Kamala's church ad for McAuliffe
Former Governor of Virginia L Douglas Wilder. (Steve Helber / AP)
Douglas Wilder, the only African American governor in Virginia's history, is not a fan of the video endorsement that Vice President Kamala Harris made for Terry McAuliffe, which is played in hundreds of the Old Dominion's black churches on Sundays.
The ad, which ethics and legal experts describe as a clear violation of IRS rules, will continue until the November 2nd gubernatorial election as the Democratic Party pulls out all the stops to ensure black participation. But a thumbs down from 90-year-old Wilder, a Democrat who has been a highly respected voice in Virginia politics for decades, is significant.
"Well, it is very good for them to do what is causing these churches to lose their tax-exempt status," he quipped, referring to the Johnson Amendment, a rule that 501 (c) (3) organizations do like charities and churches to get involved in political campaigning activities. "If that's legal, I am surprised."
Wilder understands what's at stake in the race between McAuliffe, who was governor from 2014 to 2018, and Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin. Calling Harris, the first black vice president, to win black support shows the Democrats know the race is deadlocked.
“In Virginia, the Democratic nominee must have strong Black American participation. And if [McAuliffe] doesn't get that, you're going to see some problems, ”said Wilder.
Wilder questioned whether the Virginia Democrats had done enough to count on black voters to run for McAuliffe.
"What reasons do you have to turn out?" Wilder wondered, who held the post that McAuliffe aspires to from 1990 to 1994.
In the message, Harris urges churchgoers to vote for McAuliffe.
"I believe that my friend Terry McAuliffe is the leader Virginia needs right now," Harris told viewers, promoting the Democrats' "long history of getting things done for the people of Virginia."
Harris added, “So please vote after today's service. And if you can't vote today, plan to vote. "
It has drawn criticism from legal and ethics experts.
“[Harris] video is unequivocally advocacy, so charities and churches should not be involved in its production or distribution. For charities and churches, it would be a violation of tax law, ”said Craig Holman of Public Citizen, a government monitoring group.
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Politicians have long participated in Sunday services in key congregations in order to make a transparent offer to the congregations. But playing a video is going too far, said Rob Boston, Americans United's senior advisor on Church and State Separation and publisher of Church & State magazine.
"It doesn't matter if you do it on behalf of Democrats or Republicans - houses of worship and other nonprofits are not allowed to intervene in party elections," said Boston.
Not only is Boston breaking the IRS code, it added, "Nobody wants their charities and places of worship to be torn apart by partisan campaigning."
"Something this blatant obviously poses a serious legal problem," said Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust. "Elected officials should react and explain their behavior."
When asked how the video came about and what federal law compliance considerations were made, the Vice President's office referred the Washington Examiner to the McAuliffe Campaign, which did not respond to a request for comment.
Democrats have given the state a bunch of bold names, including "Souls to the Polls" events specifically aimed at black churchgoers. But there is a difference between these turnout initiatives and Harris' open campaign.
“Places of worship and their religious leaders have a robust right to freedom of expression and can speak out on political and social issues. You can host candidate forums and distribute responses to candidate questionnaires; and to encourage people to vote, including through voter registrations and driving people to polling stations, "said Boston. “As private individuals, religious leaders can support or support political candidates or even run for office.
"You simply cannot support or reject a party political candidate in your official function with a place of worship or a non-profit organization."
Arnold said, “It's the difference between supporting citizens' right to vote and having access to polling stations or telling them who to vote for. It's a huge difference. "
"Federal law makes it clear that nonprofits and churches cannot participate in political campaigns," she added. “You can't publish or disseminate statements for or against a candidate, period.
“The video itself is clear. I looked at it and it absolutely supported a candidate. "
Still, the effects can prove elusive.
"Whether the IRS would actually enforce the tax law for such violations is a different matter," said Holman, an expert on campaign finance.
"The agency has become very shy in this area since the political aftermath of the IRS controversy in 2013, when Republicans in Congress accused the agency of enforcing these types of violations against conservative organizations."
In 2017, the Justice Department reached an agreement with dozens of conservative groups after IRS officials admitted targeting audiences with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their name, corroborating long-standing allegations that conservative tax-exempt applicants were improperly screened.
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Before 2013, numerous cases were filed against both progressive and conservative groups, Holman said. In Branch Ministries v. Rossotti was the plaintiff of a church that lost its tax-exempt status after posting two newspaper advertisements urging people not to vote for Bill Clinton in what was viewed as an election campaign.
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Tags: News, White House, Biden Administration, Kamala Harris, Terry McAuliffe, Joe Biden, Virginia, Campaigns
Original Author: Katherine Doyle
Original location: Doug Wilder, black former governor of Virginia, tears up Kamala's church ad for McAuliffe
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