The U.S. government is committed to spreading democracy throughout the world. This goal has become particularly urgent in recent years. To achieve success in this challenge requires the peaceful creation of the necessary conditions for, and attributes of, democracy within other countries, including legitimate and representative governments backed by laws and policies designed to support democratic ideals and values.
The shaping of appropriate laws and policies to govern emerging and developing democracies abroad depends on lawmakers' and policymakers' hearing the pluralistic voices of their citizens. Foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can be critical mediating actors in this endeavor, representing peoples' voices and contributing to the democratic formulation of their countries' laws and policies. But, the few success stories of foreign NGOs' crucial and effective participation in the democratizing legislative processes of their countries suggest that outside financial resources often are required.
Political circumstances may militate against the U.S. government directly providing pecuniary support to the foreign NGOs. On the other hand, for many years, U.S. public charities and private foundations have been influential figures in promoting democracy abroad. It now is time for the U.S. government to encourage our philanthropic institutions to aid financially foreign NGOs that, through their own legislative activities, can be crucial in the development of the necessary conditions for, and attributes of, democracy in their respective countries. The current federal tax regime, however, deters U.S. philanthropies from making such financial commitments. That need not continue. The old justifications for the Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) lobbying restrictions were formed in the preglobalization era. The lobbying restrictions do not advance the complex democratization processes in foreign countries transitioning from oppressive or repressive governments. Moreover, there are venerable theoretical and practical political notions of democracy that suggest, and justify in the specific circumstances of global grant-making addressed in this Article, liberalization of the relevant I.R.C. lobbying restrictions. This Article thus urges reform of the I.R.C. provisions so that our domestic tax policy will better support our foreign policy in the twenty-first century.