I read with interest Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher’s Sept. 12 article “Money from outside groups pours into Maine State House campaigns.”

Two lines caught my attention. In reference to outside spending, Ms. Gallagher said:

“Spending by candidates’ campaign committees differs from money spent by outside groups, because those groups can solicit unlimited donations from corporations, nonprofits or unions. Some nonprofit organizations that donate to outside groups do not have to disclose their donors, which has made it virtually impossible to tell who is spending money on the campaigns.”

These lines miss a very important distinction and do a disservice to Maine’s nonprofit communities.

While it is true that 501(c)(4) noncharitable nonprofits may legally spend money in support of candidates, they make up less than 5 percent of all Maine nonprofits.

The vast majority of Maine nonprofits are 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, legally prohibited from spending money in support of candidates and from endorsing candidates by federal law. People are often unaware of this critical distinction and lump all nonprofits together.

For over 60 years, charitable organizations with tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code have been prevented from engaging in partisan political activities.

This law, known as the “Johnson Amendment,” allows charitable nonprofits to focus on their missions serving others and not get caught up in partisan politics. Nonprofit organizations are best able to advance their missions when they are nonpartisan.

Ms. Gallagher’s article focuses on a very important issue – money in politics. A friendly reminder that most Maine nonprofits are 501(c)(3) charitable organizations and do not spend money supporting candidates and instead focus on critical mission work.

Noncharitable nonprofits, 501(c)(4) organizations, may engage in electoral politics and, in doing so, fulfill their important role in helping share their views on critical elections. Both play important, but separate and distinct, roles.

Jennifer Gray

director of advocacy and public relations, Maine Association of Nonprofits

Portland