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Political Work Guidelines

Guidelines for On- and Off-Campus Political Oriented Work

For those interested in working off-campus, with their work-study funds (this includes Bonner students):

Off-campus Work-Study Partners Information  (from Student Employment Supervisor Handbook): There are several off-campus community service organizations who partner with Colorado College to provide employment opportunities to students who have work-study as part of their financial aid package. Partner Eligibility There is no restriction as to whether these jobs are located on or off-campus. On campus jobs can meet the definition of community services, provided that the services are open and accessible to the community. The service provided by the student employee must be in the public interest, meaning it primarily benefits the community as opposed to the agency or school.

Work is not in the public interest if:

  • It primarily benefits the members of an organization with members of an organization with membership limits, such as a credit union, a fraternal or religious order, or a cooperative;
  • Involves any partisan or nonpartisan political activity or is associated with a faction in an election for public or party office;
  • It is for an elected official unless the official is responsible for the regular administration of federal, state, or local government;
  • It is work as a political aide for any elected official;
  • It takes into account a student’s political support of party affiliation in hiring;
  • It involves lobbying on the federal, state, or local level.

For those interested in hosting political speakers on campus, or using campus resources to support campaigns (anyone):

While we frequently host political speakers on campus, there are special regulations when it comes to hosting candidates for political office. Failure to abide by these regulations puts our tax-exempt status and federal financial aid at jeopardy; so, it is very important that we abide by these guidelines. The Collaborative for Community Engagement staff are happy to further work with you on any events to ensure they meet these guidelines as we recognize there is great value in active political engagement, the exchange of ideas, and discussion around key policy and advocacy issues. 

Here are options for hosting a political event successfully meet the IRS & FEC guidelines as well as campus event planning protocols:  

  • Open to the entire campus community as a public event  
  • The invited speaker must only speak on specific advocacy issues and in a non-candidate capacity (i.e., areas of expertise or passion)  
  • No mention of the candidate's campaign can be made at any point (including in pre-event advertising, at the event, or in attendee follow-up) 
  • The following disclaimer must be read during the introduction of the event: 
    • "This event is sponsored by STUDENT ORGANIZATION/DEPARTMENT NAME. The use of Colorado College facilities for this event does not constitute an endorsement by the College. The views of those invited to speak on campus are the views of the speaker and not of Colorado College. Colorado College does not endorse or oppose any candidate or organization in connection with this or any other political campaign or election.”
  • All campus events must be hosted by a student organization or campus department.

For more information, please visit or read information below pulled from the IRS FAQ :

Can a section 501(c)(3) organization invite a political candidate to speak at an organization event for reasons other than his or her candidacy for public office? 

If an organization invites a candidate to speak in a non-candidate capacity, it must ensure that: 

  • The individual is chosen to speak solely for reasons other than candidacy for public office; 
  • The individual speaks only in a non-candidate capacity; 
  • Neither the candidate nor any representative of the organization makes any mention of the individual's candidacy or the election; 
  • No campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate's attendance; 
  • The organization maintains a nonpartisan atmosphere on the premises or at the event where the candidate is present; and 
  • The organization clearly indicates the capacity in which the candidate is appearing and does not mention the individual’s political candidacy or the upcoming election in the communications announcing the candidate’s attendance at the event.
Can a section 501(c)(3) organization invite a political candidate to speak at its events without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status? 

If a candidate is invited to speak at an organization event in his or her capacity as a political candidate, the organization must take steps to ensure that:

  • It provides an equal opportunity to participate to all political candidates seeking the same office;
  • It does not indicate any support for or opposition to any candidate (including candidate introductions and in communications concerning any candidate’s attendance); and
  • No political fundraising occurs.

For those interested in working on political campaigns (anyone):

  • As shared by Swarthmore College: The College is prohibited, by law, from endorsing candidates for political office or making any contribution of money, goods, or services to candidates, including the use of College facilities or any other College resources. In particular, "to abide by the law, faculty and staff may not use College resources in connection with political campaign activity, which includes raising money, organizing, or otherwise supporting any outside organization or individual whose purpose is to further the cause of a candidate for public office or a political party. “College resources” is defined broadly and includes, but is not limited to, funds, supplies, printers, phones, vehicles, facilities, email networks and email addresses, and communication channels such as College “listservs” like the faculty-staff digest, College social media accounts and campus mail" (adapted from Swarthmore College).
  • Under the Internal Revenue Code, 501(c)(3) organizations cannot “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 IRC further states that “[c]contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or opposition to any candidate for public office violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.”
  • The consequences of violating this rule include the revocation of an institution’s nonprofit (tax-exempt) status and the imposition of excise taxes on the amount of money spent on the activity. 

For those interested in lobbying (anyone):

  • As shared by Swarthmore College: According to the Internal Revenue Service, generally, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. However, it does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies. Examples of influencing legislation include contacting, or urging the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation. Engaging in substantial amounts of lobbying activities may result in a loss of an organization’s tax-exempt status, additional filing requirements and/or excise taxes.
  • Organizations may engage in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying.  For example, an organization may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status.

For those wondering about their own personal political activity, and affiliation with the college:

  • As shared by Swarthmore College: "When engaging in campaign activity off campus, faculty and staff need to take care not to give the impression, even inadvertently, that they are representing or expressing the views of the College. If you do decide to share your title or College position while engaging in personal political activity, you should provide a disclaimer that any statements or actions are undertaken in a personal capacity and not on behalf of Swarthmore College. Please note that when you make a donation to certain campaigns, you may be required by the campaign to provide your occupation as well as the name of your employer. These disclosures do not require use of a disclaimer."

For those interested in on-campus voter education efforts: 

  • CC students and staff have established CC Votes, a nonpartisan voter education and engagement group on-campus, to support such efforts. Please connect with them to get involved.
  • All college community members may engage in nonpartisan voter education efforts.


 

For more information see:

Report an issue - Last updated: 08/03/2021