A Guide for Nonprofit Leaders During Election Season

Whether you are an executive director of an art museum, dance company, a faith based organization or sports league, if you run a nonprofit organization, election season presents some challenges. The federal primary elections are heating up, and this is a great time to revisit the rules for nonprofit organizations regarding political activity. 

Under the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), public charities are wholly prohibited from participating in any political campaign on behalf of - or in opposition to - a specific candidate for office.  This prohibition is against direct or indirect activity.  Also, it should be noted that these rules do not pertain only to federal elections, state and municipal elections and candidates are also covered by this rule. 

Participation can mean the contribution of political campaign funds, or any public statement or advocacy specific to any candidate for public office.  Violation of this rule may result in the revocation of the nonprofit’s tax exempt status. 

Certain activities are permitted, however:

  1. Voter education activities in a nonpartisan manner;
  2. Voter registration drives;
  3. Get out the vote drives; 

However, if any of the above activities are undertaken with evidence of bias in favor of - or against  - a particular candidate, then such activity would arguably constitute campaign intervention and thus be prohibited activity. 

Specifically of interest for nonprofit executive directors and CEOs, the prohibition against campaign intervention is not intended to restrict your first amendment rights as a private citizen.  Best practices in this circumstance are to preface any comments you make publicly (whether verbal or in print) that they are your personal beliefs and not intended to represent the views of your organization.  Nonprofit leaders should avoid, however, making any partisan statements at official organization events. 

If you have any questions about political campaign activity and your nonprofit, please contact us today

Should Robots and Artificial Intelligence Be Granted Legal Status?

At the recent Future Investment Initiative in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom reportedly granted Saudi citizenship to Sophia, a robot built by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics.  Publicity stunt?  A scripted event?  Probably a little of both, but this opens the door on a very interesting question as robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) become more and more integrated into consumer products and people's daily lives.  Should robots have legal status?  Citizenship?  Civil rights?  All of this is uncharted territory that our policy makers are going to have to confront very, very soon.

The pace of the development of AI has been far more rapid than experts have predicted.  The granting of Saudi citizenship to Sophia, does not seem to be solely a publicity stunt, and has kicked off many questions in the press about human rights in that country.  

For a moment, think about what granting American citizenship to an AI being could mean.  There is no such thing as degrees of citizenship.  In the United States, it is an all or nothing proposition. Either you are or you aren't a citizen.  The Bill of Rights and US Constitution apply to you or they don't.  Opening the door to a legal status for robots and AI beings is an incredibly thorny issue.  

Could individual states grants state-level rights and privileges to robots and AI beings?  In theory, yes.  I suspect that the federal government at some point soon is going to have to act, to at least hold preliminary hearings.

We have seen in another context that activists such as PETA have initiated strategic litigation to attempt (however unsuccessfully) to obtain federal rights for animals.  Most notably, the copyright litigation brought by PETA to obtain copyright ownership for Naruto, a macaque that lives in Indonesian jungle.   Expect that there will be strategic litigation on the "personhood" of robots and AI soon.  

Much more to come....

Tuk Law Offices and ArtsQuest Team Up To Provide Legal Training for Creators

Pleased to announce that Tuk Law Offices and ArtsQuest are teaming up for our first live event focused on legal issues that impact the arts and creators. If you are a photographer, web developer, or in publishing or social media, this event is for you.

We live in an economy of ideas. Every creative should have a working knowledge of copyright basics and licensing to protect the value of their work. In the age of social media, it becomes more and more important to know your rights in this area. This session will provide attendees a working knowledge of copyright law, licensing and current trends in social media on these topics. 

For tickets, please click on the logo!

The InVision Image Festival is a premier photo-based art festival that is designed to foster excitement and dialogue between a diverse group of participants around learning about and making art. The 3-day festival and complementary year-long programming provides professional development, networking and hands-on workshops for photographers, image-based artists, creative entrepreneurs, makers and DIYers. InVision leverages the unique attractions, history and landscape of the surrounding region and celebrates its diverse artistic and cultural community.

First Amendment Update: Federal Judge Rules Lehigh County's Official Seal Is Unconstitutional

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is very simple at first reading.  It provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...."  Those ten words have spawned volumes and volumes of legal analysis, countless lawsuits and provided a key issue in the culture wars that keep America in constant turmoil.  

An interesting ruling came down affecting the Lehigh County government: today a federal judge ruled that the County's official seal, which includes a prominent yellow cross, violates the US Constitution, specifically the Establishment Clause.  The fallout from this ruling is unclear, and there will be more developments shortly.  

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#TakeTheKnee, Part II: Why the NFL Teams Must Allow the Protests to Continue

The NFL is subject to a Collective Bargaining Agreement, the most recent version of which went into effect in 2011.  The term of the current CBA is ten years and it will expire in 2021 (the "NFL CBA"). 

In the overwhelming response to my prior writings on the #TakeTheKnee controversy (the first article from 2016 here, and yesterday's post here) one astute commenter asked whether the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement has any impact on the NFL's official stance on player protests in uniform.

In short, a close reading of the NFL CBA shows exactly why the NFL has no choice but to let the players protest, at least within the confines of the 2017-2018 season.  

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Free Speech, The NFL, The President & #TakeTheKnee

It was slightly over a year ago that I wrote about the new (at the time) controversy that was roiling the NFL, which was Colin Kaepernick's decision to take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem prior to the 49ers games.  The purpose of Mr. Kaepernick's actions was to draw attention to police brutality issues among other things.  The media and the talking heads on ESPN in particular seemingly couldn't stop talking about it.  

At the time, from a legal standpoint it was quite simply about the rights of an employee to voice their personal opinion in a very public way while working for a private employer.  The NFL, as you know, is not the US Government, nor is it a state or municipal government for that matter.  The NFL is a private entity, as are the 32 NFL franchises that employ the NFL players.   Because of this fact, there is no civil rights issue, and there is no free speech issue.  It is WELL settled that private employers can dictate employee conduct while the employees are on company time - for instance  when an NFL player is suited up on the field about to being playing a nationally televised game.  

Fast forward one year, and the debate has persisted.  Mr. Kaepernick was released by the San Francisco 49ers and and not been signed by another NFL team despite there being a clear need for starting caliber quarterbacks. 

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