On 18 April 2018 Facebook page The Newly Press shared a text-based meme asserting that taxpayer-subsidized Planned Parenthood was spending upwards of $30 million to influence the outcome of the upcoming midterm elections:
A later similar meme claimed specifically that all $30 million was going to Democratic candidates:
However, a 16 April 2018 Roll Call piece made clear a distinction absent from Internet memes, namely that the $30 million figure represented monies to be provided by a coalition of organizations, of which Planned Parenthood Votes was but one member:
A coalition of liberal organizations that includes the political arm of Planned Parenthood rolled out a $30 million program to mobilize “infrequent voters” to cast ballots for progressive candidates in the midterm elections.
Targeting [people of color, young people, and women] is a time-worn strategy, but it has not worked in the previous midterm cycles “mostly because efforts often engage too close to election day and don’t build real relationships,” the coalition said in its release.
The other organizations funneling money and resources to the initiative — which the coalition is calling “Win Justice” — are the Center for Community Change Action, Color Of Change PAC, and the Service Employees International Union.
The organizations are targeting 1.25 million voters in Florida, a million in Michigan, and 250,000 in Nevada through door-knocking and text messaging with volunteers.
Roll Call also noted that the multiple-group initiative included Planned Parenthood Votes, which is “the political arm of Planned Parenthood” (i.e., a super PAC branch), an entity separate from the main Planned Parenthood Federation of America organization:
Memes such as the one referenced above suggest it should be “highly illegal” for Planned Parenthood to receive taxpayer subsidies yet expend monies on political activities. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations such as Planned Parenthood are indeed “prohibited” from funding such endeavors:
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
However, Planned Parenthood is affiliated with two offshoot political entities which are separate from the main organization and thus can be involved with funding midterm elections. Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF) is a 501(c)(4), which the IRS stipulates “may further its exempt purposes through lobbying as its primary activity without jeopardizing its exempt status.”
The second organization, Planned Parenthood Votes, is a Super PAC. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) defines Super PACs such as Planned Parenthood Votes as “committees that may receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor unions and other political action committees for the purpose of financing independent expenditures and other independent political activity.”
In short, Planned Parenthood itself is not “dishing out $30 million on midterm elections” in violation of the law. Rather, a separate political arm of Planned Parenthood (which is donor-funded and may legally engage is such activities) is one part of a coalition of several groups that is expending an aggregate of $30 million on mobilizing “infrequent voters” for the 2018 midterm elections.