IRS Complaint Filed Againt Two Kansas Churches
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Oct 28, 2006 at 07:53:01 PM EST
The New York Times reports that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed complaints with the IRS against two Kansas churches regarding alleged violations of federal rules proscribing electioneering by tax-exempt organizations.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan legal watchdog organization, cited a memorandum from the attorney general, Phill Kline, a Republican, directing members of his campaign staff to recruit churches to distribute campaign literature and serve as the sites for events.

"This is the top law enforcement official in the state who is encouraging everyone to break the law," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group. "He's either abysmally unfamiliar with the law, or he's deliberately violating it."...   In his memorandum, Mr. Kline identified two Topeka churches, the Light of the World Christian Center and the Wanamaker Woods Church of the Nazarene, which he said had participated in "lit drops" by handing out campaign literature...

Mark W. Everson, the commissioner of the I.R.S., has repeatedly warned that the agency will crack down on religious organizations that violate laws barring charities of any type from involvement in partisan political activities.

This election cycle, additional accusations of such violations have been made against religious organizations in California, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio.

Whether the I.R.S. has responded to those complaints is unknown; the agency is barred by law from disclosing its investigations.

Several weeks ago, Bruce Wilson diaried the controversy at Talk to Action when a campaign memo by Kansas Republican Attorney General Phill Kline, who is running for reelection, leaked. The memo detailed how he directed his campaign to manipulate churches to assist his campaign in apparent violation of their non-profit tax status. Read the full memo here:

Another potential election related tax-code violation came-up this past week when Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell made a "surprise" appearance at a Cincinnati church following a presentation by David Barton, a Christian nationalist propagandist and consultant to the Republican National Committee.

It is evident that in this election cycle, bending and breaking the IRS rules proscribing electioneering by tax-exempt organizations, including churches, continues to be a key tactic of the Christian Right in the Republican Party.

Because of this, there are many interpretations of convenience of the rules flying around out there, despite the IRS' best efforts to let everyone know the rules and their intention to enforce them, but the basic rule is this:

"...all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely 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."

The IRS offers some further clarification:  
What is Political Campaign Intervention?

    Political campaign intervention includes any and all activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office.  The prohibition extends beyond candidate endorsements.  Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention.   Distributing statements prepared by others that favor or oppose any candidate for public office will also violate the prohibition.   Allowing a candidate to use an organization's assets or facilities will also violate the prohibition if other candidates are not given an equivalent opportunity.   Although section 501(c)(3) organizations may engage in some activities to promote voter registration, encourage voter participation, and provide voter education, they will violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention if they engage in an activity that favors or opposes any candidate for public office. (emphasis added)




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