Saturday, August 28, 2010

Democrats File IRS Complaint Against Conservative Americans for Prosperity Foundation

I saw reference to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and it's billionaire founders on several websites, but I was just made aware of this article by Jim Kuhnhenn at the Star Tribune, where Kuhnhenn writes that the Democratic Party had filed a complaint with the IRS against the foundation for violating it's status as a tax-exempt organization.
The foundation began running $4.1 million in ads last week in 13 states. This week it went on the air with a $1.4 million ad campaign that will run in Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania through Sept. 8.

The ads don't mention candidates or parties, but attack Obama administration policies to rescue the financial sector, the economic stimulus and the new health care law. The criticism echoes themes used by Republican candidates and GOP-leaning groups to attack Democrats...

The foundation is covered by a section of the tax code that applies to charities that are "prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office," according to the IRS. the organization may carry out educational activities, however.
What bothered me was the response from the foundation president Tim Phillips.

"We don't mention candidates, we couldn't anyway, we wouldn't want to, we don't need to," Phillips said. "We want to make sure that Americans broadly continue to think about this."

The article also indicated that Phillips is the president of another group with an almost identical name - Americans for Prosperity (minus the "foundation" part) and that group can engage in political activities.

To me, it sounds as if Phillips statement is an admission that the foundation is "indirectly participating in" the election on behalf of conservative candidates that may be endorsed by the similarly named organization he also heads.

It is also a nice set up to make political donations tax-deductible. You have two identical organizations - one that can make political endorsements and one that can't. One engages in a direct campaign while the other larger organization proceeds in an indirect manner, all the while it's supporters get to right off their political contributions on their taxes. It is also a good way to hide where the money is actually coming from.

I hope the IRS doesn't cave into special interests to avoid giving the appearance of being partisan and deem this matter a non-issue - should the IRS investigate this matter, conservatives would surely blame the Democrats and the administration...

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