When it comes to politics, nothing matters anymore. At least, that's true as long as you are a Democrat, and Kamala Harris illustrated that perfectly yesterday with the release of a law-breaking video. In it, she clearly endorses Terry McAuliffe to be Virginia's next governor, which is technically allowed for the vice president because she's exempt from the Hatch Act. Yet, it's where the video is going to be played that should lead to legal consequences.
Of course, the keyword there is “should” because we all know nothing is going to happen here.
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.#VAGOVhttps://t.co/vaefXtWqUe pic.twitter.com/yGuIL6e7Fz
— Eva McKend (@evamckend) October 16, 2021
This would be a national scandal if a Republican down to dogcatcher did it.
These churches playing this video, which is not only political but actually endorses a candidate, is a clear violation of the Johnson Amendment which prohibits tax-exempt churches from engaging in the direct or indirect promotion of a candidate for office. Here's the legal definition per NPR.
Under terms of the 1954 legislation (named for its principal sponsor, then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson), churches and other nonprofit organizations that are exempt from taxation “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,” according to the IRS website.
Harris' video could not meet the above definition anymore perfectly if she tried. Had she simply encouraged people to vote, this likely would have passed muster (as sketchy as that would be on its own), but she went much further than that. While there's sometimes ambiguity when Democrat politicians campaign in black churches, a common occurrence, Harris endorses McAuliffe and spends half the video singing his praises. If that's not a violation of the Johnson Amendment, then nothing is. And there's little argument that the church is promoting her message from the pulpit when they are choosing to play the video without a counter from Glenn Youngkin.
But let's put legality aside for a second. It's just gross to do this in a church, and I have felt the same way when Republicans have pushed these lines in the past. Some things should be sacred, and I'm not going out on much of a limb to suggest the church is one of those things. It's one thing to encourage voting or to talk about specific issues such as abortion from the pulpit. But to turn God's house over to a politician to directly endorse a candidate in violation of the law is disrespectful and disgusting.
Of course, I'm not surprised Kamala Harris would participate in such a stunt. She's truly shameless and her ambition knows no bounds. But as I said, nothing will happen here. The same outlets that freaked about the Johnson Amendment during the Trump administration will sing Harris' praises here because nothing matters anymore. The rules don't apply to them. They only apply to you.