Apparently, when the IRS says so. This is an old story, but only coming to light now. When I first heard the news reports of the IRS closely examining the applications for political groups for non-profit status I was upset with the IRS. No group should be singled out for extra scrutiny. But then Lawrence O’Donnell started what he called “harping” on the original statute. O’Donnell has a few program watchers, apparently, and the senate hearings are full of mentions of his show when they ask about exclusively vs primarily. He claims the real scandal is that the IRS changed the meaning of the word “exclusively” to mean “primarily”. This led to the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, which more or less equated money with speech. (So the less money you have, the less speech you are entitled to)
And the statute clearly is written exclusively. I hadn’t had a need to look before – 501 C (4) scroll down a bit to get to the exact reference.
When you read that, I hope you question which is worse? That the IRS scrutinized obvious political organizations (and right wing more than left – explosion of dark money, anyone?) or that the obvious political organizations were ultimately approved as non-profit? As one of O’Donnell’s guests points out, “as taxpayers, we all subsidize these groups.”