Free Speech Coalition &
Free Speech Defense and Education Fund
SELECTED ACTIVITIES 2004-2005
1. Looking back (2004)
FEC – Protecting Free Speech
In April, FSC submitted policy comments to the Federal Election Commission in opposition to their proposed expansion of the definition of “political committees,” which would have brought many IRC section 501(c)(4) advocacy groups under FEC jurisdiction. FSC also submitted a lengthy set of technical comments to the FEC on this issue, and testified in person at their hearing. In November, FSC distributed to its members the Final Rule of the FEC, in which they actually agreed with the position advanced by FSC and declined (for then) to expand the definition of political committees.
USPS – Preventing Abuse of the Cooperative Mail Rule
In May, FSC hand delivered to Chairman Tom Davis and most members of the House Committee on Government Reform a letter spelling out serious problems with the proposed changes in the Cooperative Mail Rule proposed to be incorporated in the “Discussion Draft” of Postal Reform Legislation. FSC representatives held a subsequent personal meeting with Chairman Davis to further elaborate our concerns.
USPS – Protecting Preferred Postage Rates for Nonprofits
In June, FSC hand delivered a letter to the Manager, Mailing Standards, USPS, expressing concerns over proposed regulations clarifying the type of mail that must be entered at First-Class Rates and that which is eligible for Standard Nonprofit mail rates. FSC protested that the new regulation would shift much educational mail from Standard Nonprofit to First-Class, working a financial hardship on many nonprofits. In November, FSC sent to our Members the new Postal Rule on Standard Mail Eligibility, which largely upheld the FSC position, resulting in large financial savings for affected members.
Federal Legislation – Curtailing Regulatory Appetites
In June, FSC alerted its members regarding a Senate Finance Committee Hearing and a Staff Discussion Draft proposing over 200 new IRS oversight regulations affecting nonprofit organizations. In July, FSC comments were formally submitted to the Senate Finance Committee addressing numerous problems couched in the Staff Discussion Draft.
Federal Legislation – Protecting Free Speech in Lobbying
FSC participated in meetings of a broad coalition of nonprofit organizations in a continuing effort to amend the Internal Revenue Code to eliminate the needless and costly distinction between direct and grass roots lobbying. Even though our provision was included in the House and Senate passage of the CARE Act, the differences between the House and Senate versions (unrelated to our tax provision) were never reconciled, effectively killing the bill.
State Legislation – Planting Seeds for Future Harvest
FSC representatives met with various state legislators to explore ways to reduce unnecessary and costly regulation of nonprofits and professional fundraising counsel.
Communication – Sharing Information and Planning Strategy
FSC continued to educate nonprofits and fund raising agencies about the threat of excessive regulation, as well as educate regulators about the adverse consequences of many of their policies. FSC sent its e-mail alerts and advisory messages to numerous members and non-members. FSC held six leadership conference calls to plan its strategy and track key issues, as well as many private meetings with representatives of nonprofit organizations.
2. Looking Ahead (2005)
State Charitable Solicitation – Preparing for Lobbying and/or Litigation
FSC is moving toward the development of an effective measurement of the costs and benefits of nonprofit activities in the United States.
FEC – Regulation of Internet
FSC will be opposing the newly-released FEC rulemaking regulating communications on the Internet.
USPS – Eligibility to Mail at Standard Mail Rates
Since our involvement in the “personalized mailing” issue last year, new problems of this same issue have arisen with the issuance of several USPS Customer Support Rulings. One threat is that the identification of a person’s Congressman or Senator could be considered personal information required to be sent at First-Class rates. FSC is working with Postal Service personnel to understand the adverse effects of these rules on nonprofit mailers, and will seek to overturn them if implemented.
Senate Finance Committee Legislation
The Independent Sector’s advisory panel has submitted its recommendations on legislation to the Senate Finance Committee. As can by now be expected, Independent Sector has taken the side of the large nonprofits against the small nonprofits, and ignored the interests of advocacy groups, and is supporting new and expensive burdens being imposed on nonprofits. Rather than capitulate as Independent Sector appears to be doing, FSC is currently preparing a detailed response to these recommendations which stress the burdens being imposed on nonprofits
FSC Sponsored a luncheon meeting to discuss threats on January 31, 2005.