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The League Update

February 20, 2014

Dear Friend,

Last November, the IRS proposed very significant changes to the regulations governing political activity by 501C4 organizations, like the League of Women Voters. The proposed new regulations would significantly impact the ability of 501C4 social welfare organizations to use money from undisclosed sources to influence elections, however the proposed regulations would also significantly impact the ability of the League to conduct truly nonpartisan voter service activity. That is because in defining ‘candidate-related activity’ that would be prohibited for 501C4 groups, the IRS included voter guides, voter registration, and candidate events without making any distinction for the truly nonpartisan work.

These are proposed regulations and the IRS is currently accepting comments on them. The LWVUS has submitted comments and we encourage Leagues around the country to do the same. To assist in the process, we have created an action alert that many of you may already have received. We have also sent a message to every state and local president with links to our comments and the action alert as well as suggested talking points for comments. This rulemaking process is important. Through these regulations, the IRS has the opportunity to force the secret dark money that has been flooding our elections into the open, but it is critical that in doing so, truly nonpartisan election activity that voters depend on is protected.

Nearly every League, national, state and local, is organized as a 501C4 social welfare organization. At the national level, in many states and a few localities, the League is also organized as a 501C3 charitable organization. Most of us are accustomed to distinguishing between our advocacy work which we do in the C4 and our voter service work which we do in the C3 or education fund. At the local level, this is true even though the overwhelming majority of our local Leagues do not have their own separate education fund. Nevertheless, when we do candidate debates, voter guides and voter registration, we are scrupulous in following rules established by the IRS for 501C3 organizations. These rules have served us and our communities well for many years. We are asking the IRS to use that definition to distinguish truly nonpartisan voter service work from candidate-related activity for C4s as well.

The 501C4 structure has been abused by those who wish to influence our elections precisely because the current IRS rules do not require C4 organizations to disclose their donors. The code also recognizes tax-exempt 527 organizations designed to engage in candidate activity and required to disclose donors. Our comments urge the IRS to clearly define and restrict candidate related activity for C4s because any group of individuals wishing to engage in this kind of activity can do so through a 527.

While this is a complex subject, our goals are simple: restrict or eliminate the secret money flowing into our elections and guarantee voters the nonpartisan information they have come to depend on. Because of our voter service work, because we do not support or oppose candidates, the League is in a unique position to influence this process. The deadline for comments is next Thursday, February 27. Please respond to the action alert or send our talking points through the links provided.

This is an important opportunity to protect our elections.

In League,

Description: Elisabeth

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League Leaders:
To help keep your members informed, please consider forwarding this weekly message. Please note that this is an internal communication that provides both announcements and opportunities meant only for your members and League, as well as updates on important news and events. This message should not be posted in its entirety on League social media channels or websites. Instead consider sharing the external (e.g. public interest/action) pieces such as blog posts, letters to Congress and press statements.

In This Issue:

ADVOCACY

  • League Calls on IRS to Stop Dark Money (NEW)
  • Stop Dark Money; Protect the League: Submit a Comment to the IRS (NEW)
  • LWVUS Redistricting Task Force to be Appointed (NEW)
  • Voting Rights Act Fix Introduced in Congress! (Reminder)
  • Support EPA's Limits on Carbon Pollution (Reminder)

CONVENTION 2014

  • March 1:  Important Convention-related Items Due (NEW)
  • Last Chance: Learn More about Convention 2014 – Join the Webinar on February 26 (Reminder)
  • Wares Market at Convention 2014 (Reminder)
  • Request Caucus Space at National Convention (Reminder)

MEMBERSHIP & LEADERSHIP

  • National Coaches:  An Important Asset (NEW)
  • Win an Award for Your League’s Good Work – Deadline March 1 (Reminder)
  • Youth Volunteer Recruitment Resources (NEW)

EDUCATION FUND - ELECTIONS

  • Ohio Legislature Passes Two Anti-Voter Bills (NEW)

OTHER

  • Agriculture Update (Reminder) 
  • Program Planning (Reminder)

Advocacy

League Calls on IRS to Stop Dark Money (NEW)
LWVUS submitted comments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for 501(c)(4) organizations. The League believes that the IRS proposal is a tremendous opportunity to rein in the secret “dark money” that has been polluting our elections since the Supreme Court’s terrible decision in Citizens United.  At the same time, the current proposal would significantly undermine the League’s ability to conduct truly nonpartisan voter service activities across the country – and this must be changed. Read our press release on this topic.

Stop Dark Money; Protect the League: Submit a Comment to the IRS (NEW)
Contact the IRS and urge them to keep pushing to stop the dark money unleashed by Citizens United and to make sure that Leagues can continue our truly nonpartisan voter service work. Follow our instructions for submitting your own comment to the IRS.

LWVUS Redistricting Task Force to be Appointed (NEW)
Based on a decision of the LWVUS Board, a Redistricting Task Force will be appointed to: (1) review the various methods and criteria that have been used in the states and the positions of state Leagues on redistricting; (2) consider how well the methods and criteria have worked; (3) develop materials to educate Leagues and communities; and (4) make recommendations on next steps.  In 2020 there will be another census and consequently another redistricting.  The League needs to be ready for these events and now is not too early to start.  The League needs to be a more effective force on this issue. For additional details on this issue, read this paper on League Work on Redistricting and Apportionment. We plan on appointing the task force as soon as possible; we would like to finish the work of the task force at least by Council 2015. If you are interested in participating in this Redistricting Task Force, please fill out the application form by April 1.

Voting Rights Act Fix Introduced in Congress! (Reminder)
Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), Bobby Scott (D-VA), John Lewis (D-GA), and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have introduced common sense legislation that would repair and restore the Voting Rights Act. This bipartisan effort to fix the damage done by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder is necessary to restore and protect the rights of voters across the country. Please urge your elected officials to support this important legislation and encourage them to act swiftly to move toward final passage.  Read the LWVUS press statement on the new bill and tailor this press template to use with media in your state and community.

Support EPA's Limits on Carbon Pollution (Reminder)
President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have proposed a first-ever federal carbon pollution standard for every new power plant built in America. This is a game changer for the climate – especially because power plants are our single largest source of carbon pollution. Submit a public comment to the EPA in support of the standard and your voice will be part of the official record.

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Glad You Asked!

This section of the Leaders' Update is dedicated to providing the information that you want to know. If you have a question for this area, please submit it to kmcfarland@lwv.org.

The Members Area of www.lwv.org looks different! Did I miss something? 

Yes, the area has been updated! We have redesigned our members’ site to be more user-friendly and allow for customization based upon the information each League leader most needs.

Based on feedback we received from League members, we have updated the Our Work section and the Managing Your League section. Simply, click on “Members” at the top of the homepage to see the new look! 

After you have had a chance to explore, please take a few minutes to fill out the User Survey. The information you provide during this survey is key to guiding continued improvements to the site and the addition of new features.

Convention 2014

March 1:  Important Convention-related Items Due (NEW)
There are a number of deadlines relating to Convention that are fast approaching, including Program Planning, Bylaw Amendments, and Award applications.  Make your League’s voice heard at Convention 2014!

Wares Market at Convention 2014 (Reminder)
State or local Leagues wishing to exhibit and/or sell wares at Convention 2014 are invited to request a table in the Wares Market, which will be located in the foyer outside the plenary ballroom.  Typical wares market items sold by Leagues at conventions include pins, bags, posters, books and other small- to mid-size items.  The Wares Market will be open from Saturday through Tuesday when there is no plenary session or special event scheduled.  

Request Caucus Space at National Convention (Reminder)
Interested in holding a caucus at Convention 2014? More information is available here. All requests should be made using the online form. Space is limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Questions? Contact Vicky Strella at vstrella@lwv.org.

Learn More about Convention 2014: Join the Webinar on February 26 at 3 pm ET (Reminder)
Curious about what happens at a national convention? Do you want to know the specifics of this year’s convention in Dallas? Join national Board and staff for an informational webinar about Convention 2014 on February 26, at 3:00 pm ET. Register here to participate! Until then, visit our Convention 2014 page to see what is planned and visit the Convention Forum for the latest discussion!

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Membership & leadership

National Coaches:  An Important Asset (NEW)
LWVUS is gearing up to train the newest class of Ruth S. Shur Fellows. These new Fellows, also known as national coaches, have been selected through a detailed application process to be at the forefront of the Membership and Leadership Development (MLD) program, funded by the Fund for Local League Growth. The new class of coaches will be joined by our current coaches to participate in a training outside of Baltimore in early March. 

Win an Award for Your League’s Good Work – Deadline March 1 (Reminder)
Power: Our Voices, Our Votes Awards will reflect the Leagues’ work to strengthen our democracy.  Leagues may apply for awards in four categories:  Effective Member Engagement, Strengthening Democracy, High Impact Online Engagement, and Community Connection.  Finalists will be announced on www.lwv.org, and the winners will be announced at Convention 2014.  To learn more or apply, click here.  All applications are due by March 1. Let your League’s good work shine – apply today!

Youth Volunteer Recruitment Resources (NEW)
The Young People Task Force is gearing up for Convention 2014 in Dallas and the release of the YPTF Toolkit. In anticipation of that release, keep an eye out for more great webinars and other materials aimed at helping Leagues recruit young volunteers and mentor the next generation of League leaders. All of the YPTF’s webinars are available online in the Webinar and Training Library and you can also find Part One of the YPTF Toolkit that was released at LWVUS Council 2013.

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CLEARINGHOUSE

Celebrate February!
super bowl - groundhog - cupid -presidents

So much is celebrated in just one short month! Leagues can also accomplish so much in a short time with the League Clearinghouse--the great resource that features League studies in more than 50 subject areas.

The Clearinghouse provides scope and focus of a topic, research methodology, sources consulted, information about positions, and consensus questions. 

Note: the Clearinghouse accepts positions without studies, even as multi-position documents, if they are accompanied by a single submission form. The description section could have "Resulting Position:" and the position statement or a link to the position. Complete studies are preferred, and Leagues may add study documents at a later date.

Share your studies! Share our strength! Just a click away: http://clearinghouse.lwv.org

Education Fund - Elections

Ohio Legislature Passes Two Anti-Voter Bills (NEW)
Despite the valiant efforts of LWV Ohio and their coalition partners, Ohio lawmakers passed two restrictive voting bills Wednesday night, raising the prospect that casting a ballot this fall could be much more difficult, especially for minority voters.

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OTHER

Agriculture Update (Reminder) 
All Agriculture Update materials including the update papers, Leaders Guide and online response form are posted on the LWVUS website and Leagues are encouraged to meet and submit consensus forms by the deadline of April 18, 2014.  Additional reference materials and guides provided by local Leagues can be found at the Agriculture Forum.  Contact Agriculture Update Chair Norman Turrill at LWVTurrill@mac.com if there are more questions.

Program Planning (Reminder)
Leagues should be holding LWVUS program planning meetings in anticipation of the March 1 deadline. The Program Planning process is an important League tool for identifying issues for study, review and update or concurrence. Recommending an issue is not required - no recommendation is one of the options, but please use the comments section of the response form to tell us that your League met and had no issues to recommend this time. The Leaders Guide and response form are now available online. If you have questions on the program planning process, please email progplan@lwv.org.

Donate to the League and support our work.

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