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Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 09/30/2010

Democrats get an assist from a Roanoke nonprofit

By Paige Winfield Cunningham

One of Virginia's larger nonprofits, Total Action Against Poverty (TAP), receives most of its $16 million budget through government grants. Add to that the fact that the group's 501(c)3 status exempts it from paying taxes, and political events held for Democratic candidates in TAP-owned facilities could pose some problems for the organization.

That's why TAP board member Mark Powell resigned in June, accusing the group of improper political activity and of failing to handle his complaints properly. The poverty-focused nonprofit has allowed Del. Onzlee Ware, former delegate Brian Moran and supporters of Barack Obama to hold campaign-related events for free at a cultural center it owns in the heart of Roanoke.

TAP President Ted Edlich says it was an "accident" if the center was used for political purposes and that the board has clarified rules for how its facilities can be used.

TAP's status as a 501(c)3 puts strict limitations on its ability to influence elections. But moving along the spectrum, there are a plethora of other types of IRS classifications allowing groups more freedom: 501(c)4s, 527 groups, PACs (political action committees) and now those "super PACs" -- highlighted by The Post this week.

Essentially created by two Supreme Court decisions this year, super PACs aren't subject to any limits on how much money can be raised and can explicitly encourage voters to support or oppose specific candidates.

At least this year, the trend is to give interest groups and corporations more tools than ever to influence political campaigns. Which should give organizations such as TAP even more reason to make sure they play by the rules.

Paige Winfield Cunningham is an investigative reporter and managing editor at Old Dominion Watchdog. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Paige Winfield Cunningham  | September 30, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia  
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