Public Media Policybase

CPB Mail List and Partisan Political Activities Requirements

CPB released these new rules for its grantees on July 30, 1999, after two weeks of controversy prompted by press reports that WGBH and other stations had exchanged mailing lists with the Democratic National Committee and other partisan groups. Related stories in Current: Congress reacts hotly to donor-list swaps and CPB bans list dealings with politicos.

I. Principles

A bedrock principle of public broadcasting is our support from the American people. Because we operate in the public interest, our future relies on a bond of public trust. This bond extends to millions of viewers and listeners living in hundreds of local communities of every size and description across the country.

Public broadcasting cannot afford, either in appearance or in fact, to undermine that bond.

For these reasons, effective immediately, to receive a CPB station grant, a station must certify that it meets each of following public interest standards. CPB-funded stations must:

Control — maintain active control of their membership and donor lists;
Privacy — respect the privacy of all subscribers and donors by offering a means by which the names may be suppressed upon request and suppress names as requested;
Limits on Use — not sell, rent, lease, loan, trade, give, donate, transfer or exchange membership or donor names to, with or from any candidate for public office, committees or organizations supporting a candidate, political parties, or organizations that solicit funds for use in political campaigns for any purpose whatsoever; and
Record-keeping — maintain complete and accurate records of all uses of membership and donor lists for fundraising purposes, and must furnish such records on request.
II. The Law

A. Section 396(k)(6)(B) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, (“the Act”) provides that

“station grant funds shall be distributed to licensees and permittees of such stations in accordance with eligibility criteria (which the Corporation shall review periodically in consultation with public radio and television licensees or permittees, or their designated representatives) that promote the public interest in public broadcasting…

B. Section 396(3)(A)(i) of the Act provides that each public telecommunications entity receiving funds shall be required:

“to keep its books, records, and accounts in such form as may be required by the Corporation;”

C. 1. Section 397(12) of the Act defines the term ‘public telecommunications entity” as: “any enterprise which‹”

a. “is a public broadcast station or a noncommercial telecommunications entity;”and b. “disseminates public telecommunications services to the public.”

2. Section 397(7) of the Act defines the term ‘noncommercial telecommunications entity” as: “any enterprise which‹”

a. “is owned and operated by a State, a political or special purpose subdivision of a State, a public agency, or a nonprofit private foundation, corporation, or association; “and

b. “Has been organized primarily for the purpose of disseminating audio or video noncommercial educational and cultural programs to the public by means other than a primary television or radio broadcast station, including but not limited to, coaxial cable, optical fiber, broadcast translators, cassettes, discs, microwave, or laser transmission through the atmosphere.”

3. Section 397(14) of the Act defines the term “public telecommunications services” as “noncommercial educational and cultural radio and television programs, and related noncommercial instructional or informational material that may be transmitted by means of electronic communications.

III. Interpretations

A. The Corporation, following consultation with the national membership organizations and representatives of the station community, has determined that grantees should not engage in the exchange, rental, or sale of donor or member names to, from or with any candidate for public office, committees or organizations supporting a candidate, political parties, or organizations that solicit funds for use in political campaigns . Such practices undermine the public trust, and are inconsistent with the public interest in public broadcasting.

B. The Corporation requires that grantees maintain complete and accurate records by which it may be assured that grantees are in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations of the Federal government, and the eligibility requirements for public telecommunications entities as established by the Corporation.

III. Compliance Requirements

A. Effect

1. All public telecommunications entities, including all station grant recipients of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, must do the following:

a. Annually certify to the Corporation their continued compliance with the laws and regulations of the Internal Revenue Service, and with all other applicable Federal law or regulations governing political activity and lobbying in effect at the time of certification;

b. Not sell, rent, lease, loan, trade, give, donate, transfer or exchange their membership or donor names to, with or from any candidate for public office, committees or organizations supporting a candidate, political parties, or organizations that solicit funds for use in political campaigns for any purpose whatsoever;

c. Maintain active control of their membership and donor lists, and take all appropriate measures to ensure against unauthorized use of such lists including requiring any third party, including but not limited to list brokers, mail-list management organizations, Friends organizations, fundraising organizations, or advertising or public relations agencies to abide by a grantee¹s compliance requirements; and

d. Periodically inform members/donors of any potential for sale, rental, lease, loan, trade, gift, donation, transfer, or exchange of their names; and offer a means by which the names may be suppressed upon request; and suppress names as requested.

2.. All public telecommunications entities, including all grantees of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, must maintain complete and accurate records of all uses of membership and donor lists for fundraising purposes, and must furnish such records on request.

B. Result of Noncompliance

1. At its discretion, CPB may disqualify grantees from eligibility to receive, in whole or in part, Station Grants or other CPB grants or awards.

IV. CPB Procedures for Compliance and Certification

A. Documentation

1. Each recipient of a CPB station grant, after reviewing the above information, should develop documentation indicating the manner of compliance with this requirement.

2. The documentation should be kept at each station and made available to CPB, upon request, to determine the fact and extent of compliance. The documentation should also be made available to auditors who may be making periodic audits of a station.

B. Certification

1. CPB will require that each recipient of a CPB station grant annually certify its continued compliance with the mail list and partisan political activities requirements. The annual certification will be part of the Certification of Eligibility form(s) which are included in the booklets sent annually to each grant recipient for the applicable CPB station grant(s).

2. All such Certification of Eligibility forms must be completed in their entirety and signed by two different individuals: (1) an authorized official of the licensee responsible for signing grants and/or contracts for the licensee who has knowledge and authority to certify that the licensee and its station meet or exceed each of the eligibility criteria listed in the Certification of Eligibility (e.g., chairman, treasurer or secretary of the board of directors, university vice president for finance, president of the school board); and (2) the chief executive officer in charge of the operation of the station (e.g., president, general manager, or station manager).

V. Other Requirements

Section 501(c)(3) –The Internal Revenue Code; Tax Exempt Organizations’ Lobbying and Political Activities Accountability Act of 1987:

501(c)(3) organizations must:

“…not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.”

Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code prohibits charitable organizations from engaging in “political activities,” including but not limited to political activities on behalf of or against a political candidate. The sale, rental, lease, loan, trade, gift, donation, transfer or exchange of membership or donor names to, from or with a candidate for public office, committees or organizations supporting a candidate, political parties, or organizations that solicit funds for use in political campaigns may constitute a political campaign contribution or a political activity.

The Internal Revenue Service may revoke the 501(c)(3) status of any organization that fails to comply with its rules, and may levy fines in the nature of excise taxes, on the organization and/or its leaders who knowingly engaged in activities in violation of its rules.

Source: CPB web page, July 1999

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