A House-passed GSE bill that restricts nonprofit groups from receiving affordable housing grants due to their political activities raises serious First Amendment concerns, according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service.The affordable housing provisions drafted by conservative Republicans prohibit nonprofit housing groups from receiving grants from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if the groups or their affiliates lobby Congress or engage in voter registration drives. The CRS constitutional analysis points out that Congress can restrict the use of government-provided funds. However, the Congress cannot prohibit an organization from using its own funds for lobbying and political speech. CRS legislative attorney Jack Maskell also pointed out that the courts would likely find the House restrictions "over-inclusive" because they apply to affiliates of the affordable housing groups. "[T]he Supreme Court has in the past ruled that the government may not deny a benefit to a person because he exercises a constitutional right," Mr. Maskell says. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., requested the constitutional analysis by the CRS.

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