Housing Bill Could Crimp TV Ads


A number of housing and nonprofit watchdog groups are warning that a House bill could be amended this week to discourage housing nonprofits from, among other things, buying broadcast ads through affiliated groups.

According to the National Council of Nonprofit Associations, OMB Watch and others, the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act may be amended to restrict advocacy by nonprofits by disqualifying them from receiving money from the Affordable Housing Fund if they pay for, or are connected with a group that pays for, broadcast advertising or PSAs that mention federal candidates within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary.

While campaign finance reform laws already restrict pre-election advertising by nonprofits, the bill would make it harder to farm that out to a separate, legal lobby by disqualifying them if they were affiliated with any other group that paid for the ads.

Affiliation would include sharing office space, staff, directors, or providing 20% of the other's budget.

OMB Watch, which tracks nonprofit advocacy efforts, also says the prohibition on affiliation would be contagious, which means that if a nonprofit funded A, B, C, and D, those for would all be considered affiliated with each other as well.

OMB Watch calls it an "astonishingly sweeping" step that would "have a chilling effect on the free speech and association rights of nonprofit organizations protected by the First Amendment."