Churches across VA air ad with Kamala Harris, appearing to violate IRS rule

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Hundreds of churches across Virginia began airing a political ad featuring Vice President Kamala Harris urging viewers to vote for Terry McAuliffe for governor over the weekend — raising questions about the legality of the advertisement being aired in houses of worship. 

The video advertisement, first obtained by CNN, is set to be aired in 300 churches across the state from Oct. 17 through Nov. 2. The vice president is the star of the ad, in which she calls McAuliffe “the leader Virginia needs at this moment.”

Harris starts off the ad by citing her own experience in a church growing up, recalling singing hymns about “how faith combined with determination will see us through difficult times.” 

She called on Virginians to “raise your voice through your vote,” urging viewers to cast their ballot for the former Democratic governor of the state. 

McAuliffe, who has been steadily slipping in the polls, is facing off against Republican Glenn Youngkin. 

Harris’ campaign video drew broad criticism over the weekend, with many questioning the legality of its airing due to rules set by the Internal Revenue Service that prevent churches and charities from getting involved in political campaigns. 

An ad featuring Vice President Kamala Harris endorsing Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia may have violated an IRS law by airing in churches.
An ad featuring Vice President Kamala Harris endorsing Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia may have violated an IRS rule by airing in churches.
YouTube

The law, approved by Congress in 1954, prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations — including churches and charities — from “engaging in any political campaign activity.” 

“Currently, the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one ‘which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office,’ ” the IRS website states.

The Secular Coalition for America, an advocacy lobbying group which describes itself as “representing the interests of atheists, humanists, freethinkers, agnostics, and other nontheistic Americans,” slammed the ad as an “inappropriate mixing of government, politics, and religion.”

“Using religious institutions for politicking is not new nor is it a feature of a single party or theology. It is a bipartisan problem that’s been frequent during the VA gubernatorial campaign,” they wrote in a tweet. 

McAuliffe is running for governor against Republican Glenn Youngkin.
McAuliffe is running for governor against Republican Glenn Youngkin.
AP Photo/Steve Helber

Christian author Ed Stetzer simply called the campaign a “bad idea.”

“This is a bad idea, @VP. It was bad when the Republicans did it, and it is bad when the Democrats do it. When you mix politics and religion, you get politics,” he tweeted.

Politicians also questioned the legality of the advertisement. 

“Not only is this legally questionable but it’s ironic a politician who supports extreme abortion practices is targeting people of faith,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) said.

The IRS did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment. 

The airing of the ad comes as another member of the Biden administration, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, has come under fire for involving herself in the Virginia governor’s race. 

On Friday, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group, filed a complaint accusing Psaki of violating the federal Hatch Act by praising McAuliffe during her regular briefing Thursday.

The complaint to the Office of Special Counsel alleged Psaki improperly used her office to affect the outcome of next month’s election.

Psaki had been asked whether the Biden administration considered McAuliffe’s race against Youngkin a “bellwether” ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

“Well, I have to be a little careful about how much political analysis I do from here,” Psaki began before saying that President Biden “of course wants former Governor McAuliffe to be the future governor of Virginia. There is alignment on a lot of their agenda, whether it is the need to invest in rebuilding our roads, rails, and bridges, or making it easier for women to rejoin the workforce.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing,” she concluded.

The Office of Special Counsel was unable to comment on or confirm if it has any specific open Hatch Act investigations, when asked for comment by The Post.



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