Hindu American Foundation on the Defense About Lobbying Practices

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Last month, the New York Times published an article about how the Hindu American Foundation, a “human rights group whose purpose is to provide a voice for the 2 million strong Hindu American community,” sees Jews as a “role model in activism.” The article states that HAF “learned from the success of Jewish groups that it needed a full-time staff member to lobby Congress.”

The HAF has shot back with an online statement accusing the NYT of skewering the “views expressed in an interview” with one of its member. The statement says that “as a non-profit organization, the Foundation does not lobby officials for any legislation, and our efforts are limited to educating legislators as to issues of importance for Hindu Americans.”

The thing is, there’s a thin line between “educating” and “lobbying.” HAF’s response probably has a lot to do with the fear of being accused of prohibited lobbying activities as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, but they proudly post press releases and photos about their “achievements” on Capitol Hill, like this Washington D.C. reception in September of this year —the fourth annual get-together of its kind during which they meet with senators and Congress members. In addition, they have a D.C. office to bring a “consistent Hindu American voice to Capitol Hill, the White House and non-governmental organizations in Washington, D.C.”

None of these actions are unlawful, and non-profits brief Congress members on special interest issues all the time. But HAF’s statement makes it seem like they aren’t vigorously inclined to be politically active in Washington when they are clearly skirting the line between lobbying…and well, lobbying.

—Neha Inamdar

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