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Time to drop the pretense on political endorsements

November 05, 2012|By Karin Klein
  • Bruce Springsteen campaigns Monday for President Obama, something that tax-exempt nonprofits can't do.
Bruce Springsteen campaigns Monday for President Obama, something that… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

The tax-exempt, nonprofit environmental group would never tell you to vote for President Obama and other Democratic candidates -- but only because it can't. So instead it sent out word that voters should cast their ballots with the need to combat global warming in mind. And those ballots would be for whom, exactly? There haven't been loads of GOP candidates calling for the support of clean energy such as solar and wind power, which contribute far less to climate change.

The parent group didn't say vote for Proposition 30 or Proposition 38, two initiatives on the California ballot that would raise taxes for public schools. It just sent out emails reminding parents to vote with students in mind.

Of course we're all used to the stories of churches that have been threatened with the loss of their tax-exempt status when their clerics speak out in favor of one candidate or another. Now they couch their phrasing a tiny bit more. A Roman Catholic bishop in Illinois sent out an order to all parish priests to read a letter during weekend Masses criticizing Obama and Democrats in the U.S. Senate -- and saying that any Catholic who votes for candidates favoring abortion rights would face eternal damnation.

ENDORSEMENTS: The Times' recommendations for Nov. 6

It's all getting to be a giant masquerade, so the question is: Should we just drop the pretense and allow these groups to endorse what and whom they please? And while we're at it, should we be changing the broad tax-exemption laws for religious organizations and nonprofits?

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