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December 16, 2014

Green Groups Say Campaign-Season Ads Were Not Electioneering

Several 501(c)(3) charities, which are prohibited by Internal Revenue Service rules from political-campaign activity, paid for advertisements that criticized or praised candidates in the 2014 elections, according to the Center for Public Integrity. The organizations, which risk losing their tax exemptions if they are found to have engaged in electioneering, said their ads did not specifically encourage people to vote for or against candidates and thus fall within IRS boundaries.

The article focuses on ads by environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, that lambasted Republican state lawmakers for their stances on green issues and hailed U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat. "The ad never endorsed her as a candidate," Stephen Smith, executive director of the clean-energy group, said of spots about Ms. Hagan, who lost her reelection bid.

Larry Noble, a former Federal Elections Commission general counsel, said the groups' ads came close to crossing the line into electioneering. "It's a question in part of whether they're focused on a person or whether they're focused on an issue."