The Johnson Amendment: What’s the Big Deal?

  Until President Donald Trump pledged to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, most Americans (except a few well-informed church leaders and tax lawyers) had no idea what he was talking about. After all, the law has apparently never been enforced or even discussed to any significant degree. So, what exactly is the Johnson Amendment? Well, it was a stealthy addition to a large piece of tax legislation enacted by Congress on July 2, 1954. The amendment itself had a very specific purpose. It prohibited nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations created and operating pursuant to section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue tax code from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Generally speaking, section 501(c)(3) organizations are nonprofit groups more commonly known as charities. Most charities are legitimate and do good work for the people and communities they serve. As a result, the federal government gives them some tax benefits. First and foremost, functioning as a section 501(c)(3) nonprofit makes it much easier to raise money. Donations are tax deductible for the donor and not taxable to the donee. As a result, every taxpayer effectively contributes the taxes lost from the deduction by the donor from their income for tax purposes. Senator Lyndon Johnson (who became President Johnson) insisted that the amendment helped keep charities true to their altruistic principles and out of the dirty business of politics. In reality, Senator Johnson, up for reelection, had become concerned about a tax-exempt, nonprofit group calling itself the Facts Forum which “educated” voters through “public service programs” about a litany of issues and politicians. Senator Johnson, tipped off that he was on their “hit list” because...

The 2018 Georgia Governor’s Race

  When one election cycle ends, another begins. This has been true since election cycles began and it is true again now in 2017 leading to the November 2018 elections. At the federal level, 2018 will be the first opportunity for voters to weigh in on the job performance of now President Donald J. Trump. All 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 Senators will be on the ballot. 1994’s huge swing when former Speaker Newt Gingrich led the first political revolution has been followed by several more that shifted control of the House. In the Senate, the 2018 numbers favor Republicans because many more Democrats are up for re-election. Yet in the past, voter discontent with the current administration has protected, and in some cases even rewarded, the party in control. It is far too early to tell whether 2018 will be one of those years. After all, President Trump has just taken office and his full cabinet is not even in place yet. Only time and performance will determine whether the 2016 change election will trigger another change election in 2018. At the state level, what a difference just a few months can make! Heading into the 2016 cycle, candidates were lined up for the opportunity to run for the gubernatorial vacancy created by Georgia’s term limit on Gov. Nathan Deal. In many ways, it was similar to what had happened when term-limited Gov. Sonny Perdue left office eight years earlier. For the Republicans, the list was as long as the list of GOP presidential candidates vying for the Republican nomination to seek the...

The Next DNC and RNC Chairs

  The time has come for the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) and the Republican National Committee (“RNC”) to select the chairs of their respective political parties. For the party in power in the White House, it is a relatively straightforward process. The president names his choice and the national committee effectively ratifies the choice. President Barack Obama picked Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz to chair the DNC. She served as chair of the DNC from 2011 until she resigned during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Former DNC Chair Donna Brazile has served as “acting chair” pending the election of a new DNC chair next year. Following his victory on Nov. 8, President-elect Donald J. Trump named Ronna Romney McDaniel as the next chair of the RNC. Currently, she is the chair of the Michigan Republican Party. During the 2016 presidential election, she broke with her famous uncle — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — and delivered Michigan as a key win for President-elect Trump. For the Republicans, it has been a relatively straightforward process with current RNC Chair Reince Priebus undoubtedly playing an important role in the selection of his successor. By all measures, Priebus has been the most successful RNC chair in the Republican Party’s history. Taking over a party deeply in debt, he built the party to its present political juggernaut status, winning state legislatures, governorships, the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and now the White House. Starting Jan. 20, he will serve as the chief of staff to the president of the United States. Democrats now face the arduous task that Republicans faced when Priebus took...

The Electoral College, Dec. 19, and the genius of the Founding Fathers

  On Nov. 8, most Americans think they elected the next president and vice president of the United States. Actually, they did not. Instead, all they did was select Electors to the Electoral College. The actual vote to decide the next president is not until Monday, Dec. 19, when the Electoral College meets. Well, the Electoral College does not actually “meet.” That is because the Electoral College is not actually a college or even a place. Instead, it is a process with three steps. The selection of Electors on Election Day was only the first step in the process. The second step involves the Electors from every state gathering in their state’s capital to meet and cast their ballots. Georgia’s Electors will meet under the Gold Dome at the state’s Capitol. Assuming one candidate receives 270 votes, then the election has effectively been decided. But, there is actually a third step which involves the Congress actually counting the votes of the Electors and announcing the next president and vice president of the United States. Every state differs in the technicalities of the process with some states legally binding Electors to the majority vote in their state and others dividing them according to percentage. Some do not bind the Electors at all, while others attach criminal penalties for failing to vote in accordance with state law. Sometimes, as when President Ronald Reagan won re-election in 1984 over former Vice President Walter Mondale by a 525-13 margin, it is largely ceremonial. At other times, as in 2000 when President George W. Bush won by a 271-266 margin, it can be a...

What Donald Trump’s win means for Georgia

  Every presidential election means change. The only question is the magnitude of change. So, when President George H. W. Bush succeeded President Ronald Reagan, it was more of a course modification than a change in direction. When President Barack Obama succeeded President George W. Bush, it was a sea change. But nothing compares to the change produced when the winner is not only from the opposing political party, but is a true outsider intent on banishing insider influence and taking on the establishment from both political parties. Well, that is exactly what will happen when President-elect Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office at noon on Jan. 20, 2017. No one alive today has seen this level of transformation as a result of a single election. Change of this magnitude represents a multitude of things. Most of the focus now is on the transition team and who gets what job. That is but one part of what we can expect when President-elect Trump takes office. After all, change in the White House extends well beyond the names and faces in the Cabinet and various government agencies. From his first day in office, the new president has the enormous power of the pen. This is especially true when the previous president largely governed by executive order. Unlike legislation, which can only be repealed by new legislation requiring the cooperation of the legislative branch, executive orders can be rescinded with the simple stroke of a pen by a new president. President Obama proudly proclaimed his preferred method of governance through the use of the phone and the pen. Unfortunately...

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