Donor List and Political Activities Policy

It is the expressed policy of Chicago Public Media, Inc. to treat its contributors and donors with the utmost respect and transparency, and to operate in good faith to maintain goodwill and trust with its audience at all times.

As such, we have drafted the following policies concerning the use of donor lists and political activities, in accordance with provisions set forth by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Federal Communications Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Federal Election Commission.

Donor Lists

It is the policy of Chicago Public Media, Inc. that we will not rent, exchange or otherwise share the names of our contributors, donors, or personally-identifiable information with any political party, political committee or political candidate – local, state, or federal. Furthermore, we will not make such information available to partisan political organizations or to organizations that spend a substantial amount of their time lobbying.

In addition, we will not rent or buy names from any Federal, state or local political candidates, political committees, political parties, partisan political organizations, or organizations that spend a substantial amount of their time lobbying. Lists will not be rented or purchased from organizations whose purpose or reputation would damage the goodwill and trust between the station and its listeners.

In accordance with Corporation for Public Broadcasting policies, it is the policy of the Chicago Public Media, Inc that we may from time to time provide donor/contributor names and other personally-identifiable information to other non-profit, non-political, unaffiliated third parties, but in doing so:

  1. Chicago Public Media, Inc. will clearly and conspicuously disclose to the contributor/donor in its membership correspondence and on its website that such information may be shared.
  2. Chicago Public Media, Inc. will give the contributors/donors the opportunity to choose that their information not be shared and how to exercise such nondisclosure option before the information is disclosed.

Chicago Public Media, Inc. will maintain complete, accurate and secure records of all uses of its membership and donor lists in compliance with this policy and related federal laws for at least three years and will furnish such records to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting upon request.

Political Activity: General Policy

Chicago Public Media, Inc. and its entities do not make political endorsements (sanction, support, or approval) of any political issue or candidate for office (this applies to local and state, as well as national elections). In addition to on-air announcements there may be no web-posting in support of a candidate, issue, etc.

Advocacy (i.e. an attempt to persuade) of an issue or candidate is also forbidden. An “issue” is defined in this usage as “any matter of public importance or interest”. Some “Issue” advocacy may be construed as specific to a candidate and should be avoided.

IRS regulations specifically state that “501(3)(c) nonprofit organizations may NOT intervene or participate in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate.”

The IRS has the right to revoke the 501(c)(3) status of entities in violation of this statute and levy fines in the nature of excise taxes on such entity and its leaders.

Political Activity: Editorial Policy

WBEZ has a deep commitment to truth, fairness, independence and accuracy in all of its programming. A Code of Ethics has been assembled to establish uniform guidelines for upholding those standards by all staff, independent journalists and broadcasters at WBEZ. A full copy of this Code of Ethics is available in the station’s Public File, but relevant sections are highlighted below.

The purpose of our Political Activities policy is to protect and ensure WBEZ’s reputation as a news organization that seeks the truth and reports it without bias. WBEZ affirms, encourages and supports each staff member’s right to vote in official elections where his or her choices are confidential.

We restrict the political activities of our staff so we can:

  • Prevent any real conflicts of interest in our reporting
  • Avoid giving our listeners or critics reason to question our integrity

Following are our standards on political activity by any staff member who has direct or indirect influence over any part of our news and information coverage. This group includes all staff members who are involved in writing, designing, moderating or otherwise deciding content for broadcasting or our website.

The same restrictions apply to all officer-level staff members of Chicago Public Media.

Covered staff members may not openly support, in any way, political candidates or parties. Examples include:

  • Staff should not register as a member of a political party or participate in any party’s caucus or straw vote.
  • Staff should not contribute money, display lawn signs or bumper stickers, attend rallies or show any other public support for a party or a political cause. While reporters, editors and news managers may attend rallies, fund-raisers, caucuses and other political events in a professional capacity to cover or make news judgments about these events, they may not participate in these events.
  • The restrictions on political activities do not extend to staff family members or other relatives. Staff should disclose the political activities of their immediate family members to their supervisor so that a judgment can be made about whether the staff member’s coverage of activities related to that assignment would be compromised.

Political Activity: Gifts And Contributions

Staff members are prohibited from accepting any money or gifts from any political organization or candidate and are also prohibited from providing any political organization or candidate with contributions of money, services or facilities on behalf of WBEZ. Staff should direct any questions regarding this policy to the Managing Editor of Public Affairs or the President & CEO.

WBEZ journalists must uphold the trust of the public by not overlapping individual interests with professional responsibilities.

WBEZ journalists may not accept any form of compensation from the individuals, institutions or organizations they cover.

WBEZ journalists may not sign political petitions.

Political Activity: Underwriting

Chicago Public Media, Inc. will not accept paid sponsorship (i.e. underwriting) from candidates for local and state political office, campaign committees, or from organizations whose names and activities constitute advocacy of an issue or candidate. An issue is legally defined in this usage as “any matter of public importance or interest." 

Political Activity: Public Service Announcements (PSAs)

PSAs announcing candidate appearances or political party events are acceptable, BUT the systematic usage of an announcement to the exclusion of opposing party announcements is not, nor are PSA’s that advocate an expressed issue as outlined above.