While the Bush-Cheney campaign defended the legality of urging churchgoing volunteers to turn over parish rolls for political organizing, Internal Revenue Service officials spelled out the ways that congregations could risk fines or the loss of their tax exemptions.
IRS spokespersons initially were mostly tentative when commenting on the GOP’s tactics. In appeals to church workers, Republicans outlined more than 20 organizing deadlines for church-related events. The request for church directories set off alarm bells.
By July 15, IRS officials said in interviews that if church lists are repeatedly given to only one campaign free of charge, the congregation risks losing its tax-exempt status. What’s more, churches or individuals who give away lists worth more than $1,000 could be required to register with the Federal Election Commission.