Fact Sheet: Understanding the Implications of PAC Discussions at ACP Chapter Meetings

  • The American College of Physicians (ACP) does not have a PAC. It is a charitable, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and as such is prohibited by law from engaging in political activities. This precludes ACP from directly or indirectly establishing or supporting a political action committee.
  • The American College of Physicians Services was created in 1998 to provide advocacy and other services to internist members; it is a tax - exempt entity that is allowed by law to establish and operate a PAC. While ACP Services does support a public policy agenda that supports the mission and interests of ACP, it is separately incorporated from ACP and has obtained tax exempt status under a different section of the Internal Revenue Code for business leagues (501(c)(6)) that permits it to engage in certain political activities, including creation of a connected PAC to conduct political fundraising and otherwise support specific candidates for election.
  • All members in good standing of ACP are automatically considered members of ACP Services by the terms of their membership agreement.
  • The distinction between ACP and ACP Services may seem like a technicality, but it is of crucial importance to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS has oversight authority over the activities of tax - exempt, nonprofit, charitable organizations (such as ACP) as well as 501(c)(6) entities like ACP Services.
  • A nonprofit, charitable organization (like ACP) can incur financial penalties and risk losing its tax exempt status by engaging in political activities, including raising money for or endorsing candidates for public office. As a result, it is essential that discussions concerning the ACP Services PAC not be held during ACP meetings , including meetings of ACP chapters. Such discussions can occur during meetings of ACP Services or privately between ACP Services members.
  • Neither PAC topics nor specific candidates should be discussed at an ACP meeting. If there is a need to say anything at all about the PAC, it should be limited to a brief statement on how to get information about the PAC from ACP Services, Inc. However, because the dividing line between what is permissible and what is not can quickly become confused, it is best to defer all PAC discussions to the appropriate setting (either private member - to - member discussions after the ACP meeting or at an ACP Services meeting) .
  • To save time, the most prudent course of action at any ACP meeting , including ACP chapter meetings, is to request that any questions or discussions concerning the PAC be held until after the official end of the ACP meeting or addressed during an ACP Services meeting.
  • The ACP meeting should be formally adjourned or recessed before the ACP Services meeting take s place and reconvened only after the conclusion of the ACP Services meeting. All dues paying and/or voting members who are U.S. citizens or legal U.S. residents may be invited to attend the Services meeting to discuss the ACP Services PAC and other ACP Services activities.
  • The few ACP chapters that have a separate 501(c)(6) entity should formally convene under ACP Services if they want to discuss ACP Services PAC issues in a formal setting. The restrictions on soliciting contributions from those who are not eligible, ( i.e., non - dues paying members or non - members ) , must be followed. (For the rules covering who is eligible to be solicited and when those not eligible may and may not be solicited at ACP Services meetings, see the answer to question #5 on the reverse side.)

Responding to Members' Questions and Answers (Q&A) about the ACP Services PAC and ACP's Tax Exempt Status under Internal Revenue Service Regulations

A guide for ACP leaders, governors, regents and members

Q: Why can't we talk about the PAC now?

A: Specific legal restrictions prevent political discussions during meetings of 501(c)(3) entities like ACP , or its chapters. So we must put off PAC discussions until this meeting ends and the ACP Services meeting begins.

Q: We're all members of ACP Services as well as ACP. Why should we delay talking about it?

A: Please remember, ACP is a tax - exempt, nonprofit, charitable 501(c)(3) organization. As such, under Internal Revenue Service regulations it is prohibited from engaging in political activities, including candidate fundraising. Discussion about a PAC and its activities in an ACP meeting could be viewed by the IRS as supporting the PAC and could be construed as an impermissible political activity. ACP Services, on the other hand, is a separate professional membership organization that was formed under different IRS rules that allowed it to establish a PAC. An ACP Services meeting gives us (members of ACP Services) the opportunity to discuss the PAC in the appropriate forum.

Q: So why can't we talk about the PAC now if we're all members of both ACP Services and ACP?

A: Because this meeting was convened as an ACP meeting. The difference between ACP and ACP Services may seem trivial and obscure, but the IRS is very strict on the issue. Discussing PAC activities during an ACP meeting could endanger ACP's tax exempt status. There is no reason to endanger the crucial work we do for our patients and profession by not waiting for what will be only a short time to end this meeting and start the ACP Services meeting.

Q: You mean having a PAC will get the College into legal trouble?

A: No, absolutely not. It's simply a matter of talking about the appropriate topic at the appropriate time. You can legally consult with a colleague about a patient's condition in the privacy of your office. But you know better than to have the same conversation in the middle of your patients' waiting room. It may be a crude analogy, but the basic concept is the same. There is an appropriate time and place to talk about everything and an ACP meeting or a meeting of its chapters is not the time to discuss the PAC.

Q: Can medical students attend and be solicited for PAC contributions at an ACP Services meeting?

A: Yes, medical students can attend and are eligible to be solicited and contribute to the PAC in the same way as other ACP Services members.  There is no need to exclude medical students and/or have them leave an ACP Services meeting. As always, ineligible members include non-U.S. citizens or legal residents. As long as there are not more than an incidental number (i.e. 3 - 5 percent) of these ineligible members in the audience, you can proceed.

Q: Can PAC - related information be included in ACP chapter newsletters/communications or distributed at ACP chapter meetings?

A: Only a standard factual notice can be included in ACP chapter newsletters that will inform members on where to find information about ACP Services activities , including the PAC . The College will provide members with this notice. Governors should not use their ACP title or ACP email systems to solicit on behalf of the ACP Services PAC. PAC - related materials should not be distributed or presented on - site at ACP chapter meetings. During an ACP chapter meeting, should a member ask you where to obtain information on the PAC, please refer them to ACPServices.org .