Guidelines for Hosting Political Candidates or Elected Officials
As a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, the University is absolutely prohibited from participating or intervening, directly or indirectly, in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office at any level (federal, state, or local). Violation of this prohibition could lead to excise taxes or even jeopardize the University’s tax-exempt status.
Whether any particular activity constitutes impermissible participation or intervention in a political campaign depends on all of the facts and circumstances of the situation. However, hosting political candidates and elected officials on campus will always raise issues that must be addressed appropriately and consistently to ensure that improper participation or intervention by the University in a political campaign is avoided.
The following requirements have been developed to manage appearances on the Notre Dame campus by all individuals seeking political office or who are elected officials at any level (federal, state, or local). The requirements are based on Internal Revenue Service guidance for tax-exempt organizations, University historical precedent, academic freedom, and the University’s open speaker policy.
- In order to speak on campus, an elected official, political candidate, or any surrogate who intends to speak on their behalf must be an invited guest under the sponsorship of an officially recognized University organization or unit. All such invitations must first be approved by the Office of Public Affairs and Communications (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or the Office of the President (email@example.com), in order to ensure that the invitation complies with the law and that there are provisions for appropriate hosting, including any necessary security.
- Those wishing to extend an invitation to an elected official, political candidate or their surrogate must submit a written request for approval to either the Office of Public Affairs and Communications (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Office of the President (email@example.com) at least 30 days prior to the proposed visit. Such requests should include information regarding the person to be invited, the date, purpose and format of the proposed visit, the identities of all University sponsoring units, and any other information relevant to the proposed invitation
- There may be no fundraising of any kind by political candidates, elected officials, political campaigns, political parties, or other political organizations in association with a University event, whether or not on campus. This rule applies during and outside of an election cycle. This prohibition also applies to fundraising by student organizations recognized by the University.
- In accord with IRS regulations that prohibit the endorsement or the appearance of an endorsement of a political candidate by a tax-exempt organization, traditional political rallies are prohibited. Rather, any events involving an elected official, political candidate, or a surrogate should be educational in nature.
- If their visit to campus is approved, the elected official, political candidate, or surrogate will be introduced by a University representative (which may include student leaders of clubs and organizations), and the introduction and all communication concerning the political guest’s appearance cannot include comments on their qualifications and must explicitly state that the University neither supports nor opposes the candidate.
- No banners, placards, or other signage typically found at a political rally are allowed in or around the venue where the elected official, political candidate, or surrogate is being hosted.
- Only invited elected officials, political candidates, and surrogates may speak. Surrogates must be approved as participants in advance. No political leaders, endorsers, or elected officials other than the invitee may participate.
- Other politicians or celebrities who support candidates may attend and receive special seating, and be introduced, but they may not speak on behalf of a candidate.
- If a candidate is invited to speak on campus, the University must provide equal opportunity to all candidates for that particular office to speak on campus in accord and consistent with the law and University policies. The same parameters and provisions must apply for all such candidates.
US President and Presidential Candidates
Given heightened visibility around the United States President and candidates for the presidency, as well as heightened security protocols, invitations to the President or candidates for the presidency may only be issued by the University President.
Logistics and Communications
Plans for approved events involving political candidates or elected officials may be subject to review by the University’s Office of General Counsel and the University Tax Department for compliance with IRS requirements. In addition, the Office of Public Affairs and Communications (OPAC) will monitor invitations to avoid duplication and/or scheduling conflicts.
All media outreach relating to these events must be directed through OPAC, which will manage and direct all press credentials and on-site coverage.