Council Candidate Raj Chahal Featured in Endorsement Video Using Sister Cities Youth Commission — a Violation of the Non-Profits’ Charter and IRS Rules

By Robert Haugh

City Council candidate Raj Chahal posted a video on Facebook that’s a big no-no.

Two members of the Sister Cities Youth Commission talk about Chahal in the video that lasts under 2 minutes. Chahal is a board member of the Sister Cities Commission.

It’s clearly a pitch to vote for him. In fact, there’s type on the screen during the entire video that says: “Vote Raj Chahal for SC District 2.”

RajVideoFacebook

The problem is that the Commission is a 501c3 and can’t be engaged in political activity. Here’s what the Council of Nonprofits says:

In return for its favored tax-status, a charitable nonprofit promises the federal government that it will not engage in “political campaign activity” and if it does, IRS regulations mandate that the charitable nonprofit will lose its tax-exempt status. This prohibition against political campaign activity (defined as “supporting or opposing a candidate for public office”) is SEPARATE from lobbying or legislative activities, which charitable nonprofits ARE permitted to engage in, although knowing the rules is important, as limitations apply.

The Chahal campaign video has been up for more than a week on Facebook.

It may have been an honest mistake. And no one is blaming the youth commissioners.

But here’s what’s interesting: three current or former Commissioners contacted Chahal about a week ago and told him it was wrong.  Chahal was told that he was jeopardizing the Commission’s nonprofit status. But Chahal ignored them. As of our deadline, the video was still available on Facebook.

An elected official also tried to contact Chahal to ask him to take down the video.  But he did not respond. He has not responded to our emails either.

The concern is apparently serious enough that one person close to the Commission has contacted an attorney. They’re trying to figure out how to protect the non-profit status, including suing Chahal if necessary.

We’ll follow this story as it develops.

Update: Chahal removed the video from his campaign page — and we edited the headline to reflect that Mr. Chahal did not create the video. We’ve given Chahal an opportunity to express his opinion on this subject in an op/ed for this site. He has not submitted one yet. 

 

 

 

 

5 comments

  1. Robert, your facts are completely wrong. The video was created by the youths on their own accord, not by myself or anyone directly related to my campaign. The youths already clarified that the titles used were for identification purpose only and an email was sent to Tedra Nikolai, President of SC Sister Cities (the youth who created the video replied to Tedra the very same day, that is 29th October itself). The video was in no way an official endorsement from the Sister Cities Association. This assertion is false and must be removed.

    The youth only highlighted how as a leader I helped the youths in their leadership development. As a precaution, I still hide the video from my campaign Facebook page, as I did not want any unnecessary controversy. Just for your information, I did not get any email from you to my official email address as on my campaign site. You have my phone number and you could have called me to get clarification. You should immediately retreat your story or make amend that the video was not created by me (Raj Chahal) but by the youth who have already clarified that the titles used were for identification purpose only and in no way an official endorsement from Santa Clara Sister Cities Association. Please rectify your errors.

  2. sorry to say, my child told me same thing about raj using youth comm to help. He is using title to move up? what msg does it send youth? I saw raj got endorse from past mayor Nadlar and norm mineta. maybe time to rethink.

  3. It’s my understanding he had the sister city girls going door-to-door asking to put out lawn signs. I think he’s complacent and uncomfortable walking his own Precinct.

  4. That is disturbing. I am heavily involved in a nonprofit organization and we are very careful not to endorse candidates, even though we are very often asked to.

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