A local 501(c)(3) has recently placed an advisory referendum on local ballots opposing "gentrification" or the displacement of the poor by the rich in the neighborhood.
The 501(c)(3) has enlisted the aide of a local university to help with the referendum. As the university’s website describes it "Each student becomes an expert on one block, providing a description and analysis of the ongoing development trends there. Student data is then collated and compiled into a master database from which [the organization] produces reports and maps to help their campaign."
In addition, the 501(c)(3) has published and distributed a photo with the name of the local politician that it opposes in this matter, emphatically stating their opposition to his continued occupation of his seat on the city council.
Does the university or the 501(c)(3) cross the line on proscribed not-for-profit behavior? How does the IRS distinguish between a contest between candidates and a public policy referendum?