OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
The man who is the first and only black governor in the history of Virginia has scorched Vice President Kamala Harris for her recent stunt of creating a video for black churches to help Democrat candidate, and former Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe.
The video is being played in hundreds of traditionally black churches across the state in the tight race for governor and former Gov. Douglas Wilder is not a fan, The Washington Examiner reported.
“Well, it’s very good for her to do that, causing these churches to lose their tax-exempt status,” he said as a quip, making reference to the Johnson Amendment which prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations, like charities and churches, from political campaign activity. “If this is legal, then it’s surprising to me.”
“In Virginia, the Democratic candidate has to have a strong turnout of black Americans. And if [McAuliffe] doesn’t get that, you’re going to see some problems,” he said.
But he wondered if black Virginia voters have any reason to vote for McAuliffe considering what Democrats have not done for them in the state.
“What reasons do they have to turn out?” he said.
Constitutional Law scholar Jonathan Turley has accused Harris of violating The Johnson Amendment in calling on black church parishioners to vote for Terry McAuliffe
The Johnson Amendment says, “voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.”
Turley said that Harris’ endorsement of McAuliffe directed specifically at black churchgoers violates the spirit of the law.
“Vice President Kamala Harris has taped an endorsement of McAuliffe that is being played at hundreds of African American churches around the state. The problem is the ‘Johnson Amendment’ makes such political pitches in churches a violation of federal law,” he said on Twitter.
“The IRS warns that such violations will not be tolerated because tax-exempt groups ‘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,’” he said.
“Putting aside any violation, it is notable that the Democrats used the opposition to the Johnson Amendment by former President Donald Trump as a rallying cry in the last election…,” the Constitutional expert said.
“That was before McAuliffe ran into trouble in what was viewed as a reliably blue state that Biden won by a wide margin. Now the same media and legal figures are silent,” he said.
…That was before McAuliffe ran into trouble in what was viewed as a reliably blue state that Biden won by a wide margin. Now the same media and legal figures are silent.
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) October 18, 2021
“It is part of McAuliffe’s push called ‘Souls to the Polls’ and is a full-throated endorsement of McAuliffe that calls on black churches to turn out for his election,” he said on his website. “Harris declares, ‘I believe that my friend Terry McAuliffe is the leader Virginia needs at this moment.”
“The problem is that such direct politicking in tax-exempt churches has been unlawful for decades,” he said.
Harris’s video did not make a secret of the fact that she was blatantly calling on members of traditionally black churches to bring a victory for the Democrat candidate.
“In 2020, more Virginians voted than ever before, and because you did, you helped send President Joe Biden and me to the White House,” the vice president said in the video.
“This year, I know, that you will send Terry McAuliffe back to Richmond,” she said.
“So, early voting has already started, and this is the first year that you can vote on Sunday,” she said. “So, please, vote after today’s service. And if you cannot vote today, make a plan to go vote.”
The videos were sent to around 300 traditionally black churches in Virginia this past Sunday.
“More than 300 Black churches across VA will hear from @KamalaHarris btwn Sun. and November 2 in video message that will air during morning services as part of outreach effort aimed to boost @TerryMcAuliffe, CNN reporter Eva McKend said on Twitter.
NEW — More than 300 Black churches across VA will hear from @KamalaHarris btwn Sun. and November 2 in video message that will air during morning services as part of outreach effort aimed to boost @TerryMcAuliffe.#VAGOV
— Eva McKend (@evamckend) October 16, 2021
“VP Harris implores congregants to vote following church service. The McAuliffe campaign has embraced ‘Souls to the Polls,’ block-party style events featuring top campaign surrogates after church near polling locations, to drive turnout,” she said.