Beginning in January, psychology's potential to lobby Congress and pursue other professional advocacy activities on behalf of practitioners will be significantly enhanced, thanks to the creation of a new organization dubbed the American Psychological Association Practice Organization.
The new organization is a tax-exempt, nonprofit companion organization classified as a 501 (c)(6) by the Internal Revenue Service. As such, it will not face three IRS limitations that apply to APA.
As a 501 (c)(3), APA:
Is restricted to spending no more than $1 million on lobbying expenses in any one year on specific legislative proposals.
May do no more than an "insubstantial amount" of advocacy and promotion on behalf of its members' professional interests.
Is strictly prohibited from participating in any activities related to political action committees.
By contrast, the APA Practice Organization is not subject to these limitations in lobbying expenditures or in the extent to which the organization can advocate for the professional interests of APA members. Further, the new 501 (c)(6) organization will be able to engage in some activities related to political action committees.
"The APA Practice Organization will enable us to do more of the kind of advocacy that we've been doing on behalf of practitioner interests since the Practice Directorate's inception, without us having limits that in effect tie one hand behind our backs," says APA Executive Director for Practice Russ Newman, PhD, JD, who will also head the Practice Organization.
Psychology leaders say that the restriction on professional advocacy that applies to APA as a 501 (c)(3) is becoming increasingly problematic in today's health-care marketplace.
"We anticipate that the profession will need to be doing even more advocacy on behalf of practitioner interests, not less," said Newman. "Without the (c)(6), we might eventually run into difficulty with expanding our level of activity through APA, given the limits placed by IRS on (c)(3) organizations."
Under the (c)(6) companion organization, psychology will be limited only by available resources in its ability to promote and advocate for professional interests of practitioners.
"The activities of the companion organization should have a long-term, positive impact on the profession," says APA's Chief Executive Officer Raymond D. Fowler, PhD. "There will be increased ability to engage in activities that promote the profession of psychology."
APA officials emphasize that the (c)(6) organization will benefit all APA constituencies, not just practitioners. By carving out the money spent on lobbying on behalf of practitioners and putting it into the (c)(6) organization, APA's other constituencies could--if they have the funds--do more lobbying through the (c)(3) and remain within the $1 million limit. Other APA directorates besides the Practice Directorate do not pursue advocacy on behalf of APA practitioner members' interests and therefore are not affected in the same way by the general IRS advocacy limitation.
"The (c)(6) is a win-win situation for APA," says APA Executive Director for Science Richard McCarty, PhD. "It provides greater flexibility for advocacy on behalf of issues facing practitioners while allowing APA lobbying efforts, including those on behalf of psychological science, to expand."
"This is truly one of those times that a rising tide lifts all boats," agrees APA Executive Director for Public Interest Henry Tomes, PhD.
Other associations, including the American Medical Association, have also created (c)(6) organizations, and it's been a seamless process for them, says Ron Fox, PhD, chair of APA's Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP), the governance group charged with oversight for the new organization.
"Many organizations have created (c)(6) organizations, because they make a lot of sense," Fox says. "Most members won't see the day-to-day difference."
The APA Practice Organization will be funded by the special assessment that licensed APA members already pay, which has traditionally funded practice advocacy. Indeed, funding the type of advocacy to be conducted by the companion organization is precisely why APA created the special assessment. The new (c)(6) organization becomes operational on Jan. 1, 2001, and APA special assessment monies will begin supporting the Practice Organization at that time. The dues statements that APA members will receive this fall reflect the fact that special assessment monies paid for 2001 will be directed to the Practice Organization (see graphic on page 64). There is no plan to increase the special assessment at this time.
In addition, there will be no staff strictly dedicated to the Practice Organization. Instead, the staff will continue to be employed by the APA 501 (c)(3) and "will be 'rented' or 'leased,' if you will, based on their time devoted to the (c)(6) organization's activities," says Newman.
The same individuals who serve on the APA 501 (c)(3) Board of Directors will also serve on the APA Practice Organization's board, "but will wear different hats depending on which entity they are representing," says Newman.
While the (c)(6) board has final authority for APA Practice Organization activities, the (c)(3) board will report to APA's Council of Representatives on activities of the companion organization and, in turn, the council will be free to advise that board on any issue that it wishes.
Of course, one practical limitation the organization will have is its financial resources, points out Newman. The (c)(6) will not have any new money at the outset--it will be funded solely by the special assessment.
"The more resources we have, the more advocacy we can accomplish," he says. "And so it's anticipated that we will begin to explore some revenue-enhancing activities, which could ultimately enable us to have more resources to do even more advocacy."
Newman says he is looking at products and services that could be useful to the practice community that would be "beyond that which we already provide as part of the special assessment-funded products and services."
Paul Herndon is director of communications in APA's Practice Directorate.
The special assessment portion of APA's 2001 dues statement will reflect monies paid to the new APA Practice Organization. The Practice Organization will begin operation on Jan. 1.