Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bailouts For Birdcage Liners?

According to Michael O'Brien at The Hill, President Barack Hussein Obama said he is "happy to look at" bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses.

"I haven't seen detailed proposals yet, but I'll be happy to look at them," Obama told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade in an interview.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called "Newspaper Revitalization Act," that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations. That bill has so far attracted one cosponsor, Cardin's Maryland colleague Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).

I did a little research into 501(c)(3) requirements. According to www.irs.gov, a 501(c)(3) "must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., 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."

Now I'm no legal beagle, so maybe someone can tell me where I'm wrong. The way I understand those words, newspapers will not be legally permitted to influence legislation. They will not be legally allowed to endorse any specific political candidate (as this would be "participation in a campaign activity for or against political candidates).

Additionally, there is this paragraph: "Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct. For a detailed discussion, see Political and Lobbying Activities. For more information about lobbying activities by charities, see the article Lobbying Issues; for more information about political activities of charities, see the FY-2002 CPE topic Election Year Issues.

I may be completely misunderstanding what I am reading, and I welcome anyone who understands tax law to correct me if I am wrong. Otherwise - I say bring it on! For the first time in American history, print media might be held to a high standard and remain neutral in political debate.

14 comments:

Opus #6 said...

Interesting point. What worries me is that laws are meant to be ignored, in this Brave New World. The Constitution is being ignored. What judge would uphold any suit against a newspaper in this political climate. I am losing my faith in the political system. I think that things will turn around when the balance in congress shifts in 2010. Then people will feel more sanguine about going against the radical liberal line. Until then, we need to scream like heck to prevent anything that smells like State Run Propaganda, which they already ARE, but at least we taxpayers don't have to pay for the privilege.

Opus #6 said...

I feel sure I added you to my blogroll ages ago, but I couldn't find you. Odd. Anyway, I rectified the oversight.

Soloman said...

Opie - While I understand your point about kicking and screaming against anything they do... look at what has truly worked best to this point - Holding them accountable to their own words, deeds, and initiatives.

Glenn Beck has done exactly that with his exposure of the 'czars' and constantly going back to Obama's quote of "look at who I surround myself with."

And the ACORN duo say they believed they were just beating ACORN at their own game - being as outrageous as possible, seeing what else they could expose.

Holding them to the law (assuming I'm right about the law, of course) after letting them get what they want would be pretty smart too - isn't it Holder who's trying to "hold the CIA to the law" right now against everyone's better judgment?

Plus, if we're too loud about EVERYTHING - they'll try even harder to make the 'racist' label fit, whereas right now it is so obviously incorrect.

Thanks for the add - I honestly never noticed... I know you visit me and have propped me at least a couple times, so as the kids say - it's all good!

Desman said...

ACORN is a 501(c)(3), if I am not mistaken. Tax law has not stopped them from trying to influence elections.

Ditto for the ACLU.

The Conservative Lady said...

Sol:
The CEO of ACORN was on Chris Wallace's FOX News Sunday yesterday. I think I heard them say that ACORN is a taxable non-profit organization.
If Desman is right, and ACORN is a 501(c)(3), then the newspapers would become just like them. ACORN endorses politicians, so the newspapers would too.
I doubt Obama would let his state-run media get into a position where they couldn't continue to spew his propoganda.

Soloman said...

Desman - thanks for commenting.

I understand the problem, but I think moving forward, the solution is to hold politicians to the law.

After all, we have to pay our taxes and follow the law, do we not?

We saw (depending on the source) a large number - maybe a million - people march on DC with no specific purpose, but a lot of general concerns about an out of control government. Imagine if we had one specific cause, what we could do?

Soloman said...

TCL - wouldn't that be ironic, if this were to happen and then they had to follow the law?

I'm just sayin'...

blackandgoldfan said...

Soloman: Being a 501(c) hasn't stopped the left from trying to influence elections or endorsing a specific candidate. Of course if a conservative/libertarian did it...

The one incident that stands out in my mind is the Al Gore/Buddhist temple incident. It never made the MSM (wonder why!), but it was still a clear violation of IRS code.

As for the government bailing out the newspaper industry...Pravda anyone?

Bungalow Bill said...

What a great title! I am running late to work again, so I will have to read the rest of it when I get to the office. Looking forward to it.

Bungalow Bill said...

The laws are already being ignored just by creating this legislation. The government has been given no Constitutional authority to do this. That's all that needs to be said.

Soloman said...

B&G - I think I've got a good idea in principle, but the more of you who remind me of the history of 501(c)'s and their activities, the more I shy away.

I guess I figure because the majority of their actions would be in the public forum, maybe we could keep an eye on them. Of course, there's always what goes on behind the scenes..

Soloman said...

Bill - I may be mistaken, but any business may become a taxable non-profit, they simply must abide by the tax laws that regulate such organizations.

Therein lies the real issue - keeping them within the letter of the law.

In theory, a media industry that did not operate for a profit and had no political bias would be ideal. I think we all would agree about that point.

Reality says - not gonna happen. Money overrides everything, and politics is news and brings money. (so why am I not making any?? lol...)

Either way - glad you liked the title of the post - I was kinda proud of it, I must say!

One Ticked Chick said...

I cracked up when I read this. Media outlets as nonprofits? They must be crazy. Nonprofits have to raise money to operate. Who's going to fund them? Plus this will raise an interesting Constitutional question regarding their First Amendment rights.

Soloman said...

Ticked Chick... I kinda did too.

Of course, if they offer a good product they would fund themselves, in theory - kinda like how the girl scouts make money selling cookies? Okay, not the best comparison, but anyway..

And they'd be perfectly protected under the Constitution as they are today.

The thing is - monitoring not just the corruption on the surface, which is easy, but all the behind the scenes influence peddling (like ACORN and ACLU) would be incredibly difficult.