This story was edited on Oct.1 after publication to correct Bogo’s job title.
Hamico Foundation President Alexis Bogo endorsed Kim White for mayor, citing the group’s pro-Chattanooga values, and the White campaign says the support is welcome despite a law prohibiting tax-exempt nonprofit groups from making endorsements.
A video on White’s campaign website for her 2021 mayoral bid pictured Bogo endorsing and soliciting donations for White.
At the beginning of the video, Bogo introduces herself as president of the 501(c)(3) community development foundation and proceeds to endorse White under the auspices of her position.
“My name is Alexis Bogo and I am president of a local foundation called the Hamico Foundation,” she says. “At Hamico Foundation our mission is simple: to make Chattanooga a better place.”
She then calls Kim White someone with “like-minded thinking and a like-minded mission” to that of the foundation.
Bogo, who is serving as co-chair of finance for White’s campaign, never identifies herself outside of her role with the foundation. Later, she encourages citizens to donate to White in celebration of White’s upcoming 60th birthday.
According to the IRS, nonprofits are “absolutely” prohibited from “directly or indirectly” endorsing candidates.
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations 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,” the rule reads.
“Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity,” it continues. “Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”
When asked about the video, White’s campaign, representing both the candidate and Bogo, said it stands by the video.
“Our counsel has assured us the video does not violate any legal campaign parameters so we don’t have any plans to discontinue using it,” spokesman Albert Waterhouse said in an email to the Times Free Press on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee attorney general, whose division of Public Interest regulates nonprofits, said the office would not comment on the video since no complaint had been filed.
Bogo was paid a $190,000 salary in 2018 as executive president of Hamico Inc., which is organized as a private foundation with Section 501(c)(3) status, according to its most recent publicly available tax filings. The group listed $4.7 million a year in annual revenue.
White also has a nonprofit background. She was paid a $279,000 salary as president of Chattanooga’s River City Co., a redevelopment organization, as of its 2015 tax filing.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at 423-757-6416 or [email protected] or on Twitter @_SarahGTaylor.