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Is it proper for employees to use email system to send political campaign messages?

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Is it proper for employees to use email system to send political campaign messages?

Our 501(c)(3) school has a computer use policy that states that the email system is school property. Is it proper for school employees or spouses to use the email system to send unsolicited emails regarding political campaign issues?

You are right to be concerned about the use of charitable property in electioneering. Charities can lose their exemption for participation in an election campaign. (See Ready Reference Page: “Charities May Not Participate in Elections.”) The most recent guidance from the IRS emphasizes that official action of the organization may be deemed to be intervention in a campaign, depending upon the circumstances. (See Ready Reference Page: IRS Issues New Guidance on Electioneering.”
 
But if your employees and their families (or your students) are generally allowed to use the system for personal correspondence of all types and use it for political purposes in that context, it would not seem likely that the IRS would challenge the organization for such use, any more than it would challenge the use of the student center for political discussions. If the Head of School or others whose status might suggest that the sentiments are official are sending targeted emails, however, you might have a problem. You ought to be able to protect against that by explaining the rules to the hierarchy. 
Monday, June 13, 2011

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