Election campaign signs at York Rescue Mission coming down


Election campaign signs for a York County judge candidate in front of York Rescue Mission properties that might violate federal regulations that forbid nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations from participating in political campaigns are coming down.

Political signs for attorney Chris Menges, of Warrington Township, were seen in front of the rescue mission's economy store at 283 W. Market St. and its men's shelter, 367 W. Market St., in York City, as well as in the front yard and rear parking lot of its Dover Economy Store, 67 N. Main St. in the borough.

"I'll call my managers to get them taken down," Matthew Carey, executive director of the mission, said when told IRS regulations forbid 501(c)(3) organizations from supporting candidates. "I did not know that."

Carey and Menges, who's president of the mission's board of directors, said they aren't sure who put up the signs.

Regulations: Michael Hussey, an associate law professor at Widener University in Harrisburg, said the signs at the mission likely cross the line of what the IRS, which oversees granting 501(c)(3) statuses, would allow. The campaign signs would likely "be considered intervening in a campaign, and thus be prohibited at the risk of losing the organization's tax status," he wrote in an email.

"I think putting a sign up, regardless of who made the sign, would jeopardize a 501(c)(3) organization's tax-exempt status because that is advocating for a candidate," he said.

An IRS spokeswoman said she's unable to comment on how federal tax law applies to a specific a organization.

However, the Internal Revenue Code states that all 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."

Unaware: Carey said he wasn't aware that a tax-exempt organization could lose its 501(c)(3) status for having political signs for a candidate on its property.

"We just weren't educated," he said.

Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Menges said he called Carey to have the signs removed from mission property.

Menges added he doesn't want to see the good work the mission does and its tax-exempt status affected by political signs.

In 2014, the mission served 173,825 meals between its men's and women's shelters, which also provided beds to people in need, according to its website.

"We can't have the rescue mission taking a hit," Menges said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.