This was actually the first set of primary sources that I pulled together, but it was before I realized that I should post these things here on my blog rather than in comments on other people’s Facebook posts. Anyway, you may have forgotten all about this uproar by now, but…
In late January there was a popular tweet storm (several of which have since been deleted) that lamented the constrictions that Trump’s perpetual candidacy puts on non-profits. It made two assertions: 1) filing for re-election on inauguration day is not normal, and 2) this would restrict non-profit speech about the President, since they are prohibited from “campaigning.”
Is this normal?
No. President Trump filed a “statement of candidacy” (Form 2) for the election in 2020 on the afternoon of his inauguration day, 1/20/2017. The letter does say that he is not formally announcing candidacy as of yet, but this opens the door for election fundraising.
Previous 2-term presidents that I could find files for have waited until just over one year before the election to file Form 2: Barack Obama filed Form 2 on 4/4/2011, George W Bush filed Form 2 on 5/16/2003, Bill Clinton filed Form 2 on 4/14/1995, and Ronald Reagan filed Form 2 on 10/17/1983.
Just as an aside, I did find an 2015 FEC “statement of candidacy” for Ronal Reagan’s Ghost, so there’s that.
Would this muzzle non-profits?
Probably not. While there is a Restriction on “Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations,” tax lawyers have weighed in and said that this only restricts what non-profits can say specifically about Trump’s candidacy in 2020. Snopes (liberal bastion though it may be) quotes the opinions of tax lawyers on this topic for us.