The group OMB Watch has issued an urgent appeal about a new Republican gag rule restricting the ability of non-profit organizations to do voter registration or lobbying and advocacy for their constituencies. The bill is likely to be voted on by the House of Representatives next Wednesday, October 26. And a coalition of 60 national organizatons has sent a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert opposing the Gag Rule.
A provision to be introduced as a manager’s amendment to the Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) in the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act (H.R. 1461) would dramatically restrict nonprofit advocacy. While it applies only to nonprofits seeking grants under a new Affordable Housing Fund (AHF), the provision sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the speech and association rights of all nonprofits.
Even non partisan activities are restricted under this Nonprofit Gag Provision, like voter registration. voter identification, and get-out-the vote activities. Also forbidden are: anything that “promotes,” “supports,” “attacks,” or “opposes” a candidate for federal office, which could be interpreted to include criticism of elected officials who may be seeking reelection; broadcast of any ads — public service announcements, grassroots issue advocacy, anything — that refer to federal candidates within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary; or lobbying, except if the group is a 501(c)(3) organization it may lobby within permissible limits. Affiliation with any entity that engages in any of the above activities during the same time period — 12 months before applying for a grant or during the grant period — will also disqualify the group from receiving money from the AHF.
This highly dangerous Republican initiative would sharply limit the ability of non-profit organizations serving the poorest among us to speak up about the needs of these voiceless communities. AIDS service organizations that receive federal housing money for people with AIDS could be affected — like the splendid New York-based Housing Works, which does a lot of lobbying and hosts the Campaign to End AIDS. And so could every affiliate of national lobbying coalitions like the Leadership Conference on Civil Rigfhts, or AIDS Action (as useless as many of us feel AIDS Action is, taking away funding from its affiliates would be a disaster for the AIDS community).
Joining OMB Watch in the appeal to stop this anti-civil libertarian gag rule were the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy, and the National Council of NonProfit Organizations.
Time is extremely limited! Tell your representatives to let House leadership know that this provision should not come to the floor. And if there is a vote on the provision, tell them to oppose the Nonprofit Gag Provision.
For more information on this horrible gag rule, click here.
Working with groups such as the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, whose members would be directly effected by the provision, OMB Watch has established, and will continually update, a one-stop resource center with analyses, statements, action alerts, and more.