Re: Fw: ACR 242

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Mon Aug 09 2004 - 15:48:09 CDT

> On Aug 9, 2004, at 12:26 AM, Alan Dechert wrote:
> > Please join us in urging the CA Senate to pass ACR 242.
> I have a question about this: Is our potential tax exempt status in
> any way endangered by having the OVC, as the OVC, take a position
> on legislation.
Arthur, at one time, posted a table showing the differences between the
various 501(c)(x) organizations. Generally, 501(c)(3) have a lot more
restrictions on political activities and such. Also, 501(c)(3)s are
generally prohibited from serving business interests. The OVC could not
function as a 501(c)(3).

The OVC is organized as a 501(c)(6). This is the category under which trade
associations are generally organized. The purpose of a trade association is
to promote the business interests of its members.

> And, is it a problem is OVC resources, are used for this purpose,
> and is the voting-project list an OVC resource.
I see no problem.

> And similarly, is the OVC's position as a possible subcontractor
> in a large state-funded voting system's project in any way endangered
> by the OVC taking positions on such legislation.
It is clearly self serving. But I don't see any problem with that. This is
normal trade association behavior.

> I ask these questions in complete ignorance of what exactly ACR 242
> might be -- as a non-Californian, I cannot take the time to follow
> all such developments.
ACR 242 simply asks Kevin Shelley to look into open source software for use
in elections.

> It is my understanding that there is no risk if the OVC simply
> informs people that some issue is pending, and no risk if the OVC
> informs people of the potential impact of legislation on the OVC.
> As I understand things, problems can arise if the OVC goes beyond
> informing -- allowing readers to draw their own conclusions,
> and begins urging people to act in one way or another on that
> information.
> Of course, if an officer of the OVC takes a personal position on
> an issue, there is no problem, but as I understand things, people
> need to distinguish between personal stands and OVC stands, and
> this goes particularly for officers of the organization when they
> are using communication channels that are generally used to
> conduct the organizations business.
> I am not a lawyer. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous
> thing. I have a little bit of knowledge, and it is just enough
> to worry me. Someone who knows more ought to clarify what is and
> is not proper.
I don't see any problems here. As I mentioned, if we were a 501(c)(3) there
may be some problems here. Then again, consider that the Election Center is
a 501(c)(3) and they are putting on this conference where election officials
are being treated to a cruise on the Potomac with one of the DRE vendors as

I will try to get a lawyer to comment on this. But, clearly, the OVC is a
trade association and trade associations exist to promote the business
interests of its members.

Alan D.
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Received on Tue Aug 31 23:17:06 2004

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