The president said he is "happy to look at" bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses.
Isn't the problem that they are having the fact that they don't have any, um, profits? Doesn't that already make them, you know, non profits?
Seriously, though, right now the law requires that
no substantial part of the activities of ...[the organization]... is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.
And what is that exception mentioned in (h)? Let's take a look, shall we?
For those of you not in the know, the lobbying ceiling amount is 150% of the lobbying nontaxable amount, which is $1,000,000. See Internal Revenue Code sections 501(h)(4) and 4911. That definition is child's play for tax attorneys, but fairly opaque to your average reader. It boils down to this: if an organization wants to be exempt from tax under Section 501(c)(3), it cannot spend more than $1.5 million on "lobbying expenses", which are defined as either (a) attempts to influence legislation through attempts to influence the opinion of the general public or any segment of the general public; or (b) attempts to influence legislation through communication with any member or employee of a legislative body or with any government official or employee who may participate in the formulation of the legislation.
(h) Expenditures by public charities to influence legislation
(1) General rule. In the case of an organization to which this subsection applies, exemption from taxation under subsection (a) shall be denied because a substantial part of the activities of such organization consists of carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation, but only if such organization normally -
(A) makes lobbying expenditures in excess of the lobbying ceiling amount for such organization for each taxable year, or
(B) makes grass roots expenditures in excess of the grass roots ceiling amount for such organization for each taxable year.
Didn't think so.
Basically, what is being suggested is that the New York Times receive what amounts to a federal subsidy from you, me and any one else left paying taxes so that it can continue to do what it does now, which is to lecture us on how nasty and/or stupid we are for not doing what they think is the right thing to do.
I think that's just a marvelous use for our tax dollars. Don't you?