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Chambers and Political Engagement

Chambers of commerce in the US operate almost exclusively as non-profit entities known as 501(c)(6) corporations. Unlike charities, these 501(c)(6) non-profits have the authority under state and federal tax rules to represent their members in public policy debates. They may lobby and take positions on actual or proposed legislation, subject to local, state and federal laws. Chambers may legally endorse candidates for public office and/or ballot propositions (but most do not). The use of general fund revenues for chamber political and lobbying purposes is strictly regulated. The chief executive or another member of the staff is sometimes a state-registered lobbyist. The portion of any member’s dues investment allocated to direct lobbying is not deductible as a business expense.

Chambers must consider their positions on issues and candidates, as well as possible actions or positions. Should a chamber of commerce be nonpartisan? How involved can a chamber get in issues potentially affecting its members? Read on to learn how other chambers approach this issue.

Board Member or Employee Political Activity


QUESTION What are best practices for chambers of commerce when:
  • a board member wants to run for public office?
  • a chamber staff member or CEO wants to run for public office?
Is there a proper procedure if a board or staff member decides to run for public office?

The practice of allowing board members or employees to serve as an elected official vary greatly among chambers. Some chambers do not allow elected officials to be on their board, while others encourage board members or employees to run for office. Each chamber should decide if running for public office presents conflicts of interest or is acceptable based on their community needs. Best practice is to have a policy in place before the issue arises and to use a conflict of interest disclosure form if the decision is to allow board members and employees to run for public office.

ANSWERS Click here for CEO responses to this question.

Samples

The following samples include language regarding board members or employees running for public office, conflicts of interest, and serving as ex-officio.
See more Conflict of Interest samples in ACCE's Samples Library

See more Bylaws samples in ACCE's Samples Library

Articles



Candidate Forums


See Candidate Forums samples in ACCE's Samples Library


Endorsements of Candidates or Issues

See all samples related to Endorsements.

Event Contracts & Policies

Chambers are also working out the issue of whether to allow political materials or campaign activities at chamber-sponsored events. Do chambers have the right to tell a venue host to remove political signage?

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Last Updated: 4/30/2018

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