Focus on the Family and tax-form hanky-panky
One of the first interesting things I knew about--and began researching on--was the fact that in 35 states charities must specifically register with the state Attorney-General; generally the only exemptions that are given are for church groups (similar to how churches do not technically have to file form 990s).
The first oddity I found was that Focus on the Family apparently has no record of being a registered charity in Kentucky (a state that requires charity registration and bonding, and is quite aggressive on enforcing it). There is a link to Focus on the Family Action (which is the 501(c)4 lobbying wing of FotF; in an almost identical repeat to the story of the beginnings of the Family Research Council, FotF has had to split a lobbying front off to avoid problems with its tax exempt status). Generally this is only the case for groups registered as churches or for groups that are illegally soliciting in Kentucky, which led me to some further research.
FotF's home state of Colorado also requires registration--and, notably, is one of the few states requiring registration that does not use a unified form accepted in 35 states (partly because Colorado is becoming more aggressive in dealing with charity fraud, though not on the level of KY or NY). Colorado, of note, publishes its reports in a large PDF; pages 215 and 374 of this PDF give the following interesting info:
FOCUS ON THE FAMILY Reg. No. 20023004136
FOCUS ON THE FAMILY ACTION, INC. Reg. No. 20043006430
Hmmm. OK, so far, this is the only state I've found where FotF's registration records seem to be remotely on the level.
Doing some further research, I did some checking in regards to FotF's status as a charity in New York State. New York has one of the most aggressive Attorney-Generals in the country investigating charity fraud, Elliot Spitzer; it's been in large part through some of his own investigations that affinity fraud schemes have been busted that in large part involved the dominionist community.
New York also has similar laws, though even more restrictive in some ways, than Kentucky; among other things, its only exemptions include churches and some charities that also act as charitable trusts have to "double-register". The laws will likely be tightening even further soon.
I found similar hanky-panky, in fact more blatantly, in New York than in Kentucky--both FotF and FotF Action registered with the state of New York as organisations exempt from filing a charity solicitation form--neither group is really eligible, especially not FotF Action (which is a 501(c)4 and not even tax deductible!). Even more bizzarely, the EINs (the "tax registration" numbers that all businesses, both taxable and nontaxable, use to file with the IRS) are completely ommitted. (FotF's is, incidentially, 95-3188150. Other charities that were exempt had theirs listed, which is suspicious in and of itself.)
NY's charity lookup site also has a link to ERI's lookup tool for nonprofits (It is an amazingly good tool for this--among other things, I've found form 990s for the dominionist church I walked away from and their foundation, which I've been unable to find using other tools for searching tax-exempt groups.). FotF's records are here, including their latest form 990 which contains some very damning information indeed.
Among other things, the 990 online (which includes the appendices, which has most of the good info) has info on their direct mailing/"donor communications" firm, and shows over 126 million dollars is from direct solicitations. It shows they are NOT registering as an educational group (the entire section is blank).
The parts that could REALLY get Focus on the Family in trouble with the IRS are deeper in the document. Among other things, their form 990 does explicitly list FotF action as essentially a 501(c)4 front. Their form 990 states clearly, in response to the question 52(a) "Is the organization directly or indirectly affiliated with, or related to, one or more tax-exempt organizations described in section 501(c) of the Code (other than section 501(c)(3)) or in section 527?" the following:
a) Name of organization: Focus on the Family Action, Inc.
(Available in original PDF on page 12 of 59-page form)
This would probably be less of an issue were it not for the OTHER info listed in their form 990--which, as further exploration of the form shows--makes their status quite non-compatible with the specific subsection of the 501(c)3 tax-exemptions they're filing under.
One of the things that began raising warning flags with me is that on EIN's site they list themselves as a "historical society" (one of the exemptions for a 501(c)3 and one of the few non-church-related exemptions most states have for registering as a charity soliciting funds). This is, presumably, to throw off Attorneys-General investigating. To find the real meat of the matter, we have to go to the numerous appendices of statements attached to their form 990--and it is this that has the real potential of getting FotF in Serious Legal Trouble if ever followed up on.
Damningly--and this should be brought to the attention of the IRS and state Attorneys-General, IMHO--FotF's form 990 also notes quite explicitly they're registering as a religious group (which technically should not be having lobbying groups associated with it at all!) and is likely how they're pulling hanky-panky with state registries.
In Statement 4, Part III (Statement of Organization's Primary Exempt Purpose) it rather explicitly defines itself as a church to use the "church exemption":
(Page 17 of 59 in original. Emphasis mine.)
Right here, there's a bit of a problem. Technically, churches should not even have lobbying wings (and make no mistake, they are specifically using the religious exemption argument).
This doesn't deter FotF--they even admit that some of their "religious" products are pretty much used for lobbying. Their description of "Program Service 2" (on page 18) goes into more detail:
DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM SERVICE TWO
Approximately $29,905,484 went into this in 2005.
Amazingly, their form goes into more explicit detail on its use of its publications as a form of lobbying. Program Service 3 (on page 19) is as follows:
DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM SERVICE THREE
Approximately $16,800,690 went into this in 2005.
"Program Service 4" is the really damning one, IMHO. It lists quite explicitly that the group--which I'll remind folks, was specifically registered as a 501(c)3 org as, and which was incorporated as a religious organisation (more below on that)--considers illegal lobbying activities as part of its religious program services:
DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM SERVICE FOUR
(Pages 20-21 in original. Emphasis mine.)
If this isn't a violation of 501(c)3 status, I don't know what the hell is. The thing that gets me is that Focus on the Family actually had the cojones to admit to illegal lobbying in their IRS tax-exemption form! (One which they claimed $9,323,092 was spent for in 2005.)
The "Other expenses" section is pretty interesting too; it notes around $27,996,974 spent in 2005 for "Various other ministry efforts (such as Physicians Resource Counsel, FOF Institute, Crisis pregnancy centers, Heritage Builders, Ethnic Ministries, and Focus Over Fifty). (The last one is a new one to me, though it shouldn't surprise me--I was not aware that FotF ran essentially a dominionist "parallel economy" version of AARP. It is revealing that they're a major funder of the dominionist "parallel economy" in general.)
One of the non-gifted sources of funding--and a non-negligible one--is a listing of "corporate notes" as a source of income to the tune of $11,077,693; they also receive $19,930,040 in total from various investments, including one for "Commercial paper" and several gift annuity security funds.
Some of their justifications for other forms of income are interesting, of note:
Section 93(a) (revenue gained from royalties and licensing,$23,346,753): "Royalties and licensing from film and books designed to strengthen and preserve traditional values of the family." (AKA kickbacks they get from publishers, etc. for Dobson's books and movies.)
Section 93(b) (revenue from events, $575.432): "Events strengthen and educate our constituents and the public to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ through the witness of their lives." (And also frequently involve illegal electioneering.)
Section 93(c) (revenue from FOF Institute, $1,729,023): "FOF Institute exists to provide a unique Christian educational community that nurtures passionate and persuasive leaders who are committed to Jesus Christ, equipping them to promote healthy families, vibrant churches and a civil society (juniors and seniors in college)." (In fact, FOF Institute explicitly trains college-age students to be, among other things, dominionist politicians--another excellent example of illegal electioneering and political activity, based on their specific exemption status.)
Section 93(d) (revenue from "Dr. Dobson Solid Answers", $103,916): "'Dr. Dobson's Solid Answers' is a newspaper column that generates sponsorship income that is directly related to the organization's exempt purpose. Sponsors of this column are given acknowledgement and no advertising is provided. Therefore, income is exempt from business income." (In other words, a very slick scheme to get syndication fees without paying taxes on them. It would be interesting to know a list of the sponsors for this column.)
Section 102 (gross profit from sales of inventory, $1,856,608): "Gross profit from the sale of inventory products consisting of books, tapes and clothing promoting and strengthening the family." (This is not quite on the spot. FotF sends material (including not only Dobson's guides on how to biblically beat your two-year-old, but also things like the Narnia movie) for a "donation"; their website, until recently, did not have a minimum donation to give, so people could theoretically get goods sent to them for a donation of $0.00 or $0.01. FotF has attempted to renege on orders for people who successfully placed orders for material with these minimum donations.)
Section 103(a) (FOFA reimbursement, $3,967,185): "Represents the amount of reimbursements at fair market value for the use of facilities, equipment, and media channels from Focus on the Family Action, Inc., a related entity having the same board of directors and officers as Focus on the Family." (More fun with shellgames between the left hand and the right hand. Technically, FOFA should not even be allowed to legally exist as a related group (due to the church-related exemption of FotF), and was split off as a lobbying arm specifically to avoid an IRS investigation; they still funnel money between each other.)
Another really surprising one is a claim of nearly $525,000 in tax-exempt income from cafeteria sales. Altogether, this was a source of $12,345,025 in profits for FotF--including a nice cash injection of almost four million dollars from its 501(c)4 frontgroup. (This is a beautiful example of how dominionist groups essentially launder money from 501(c)4 affiliates to 501(c)3 parent groups, by the way.)
An interesting bit of note is a listing of board members--as it turns out, one of the architects of the hijacking of the Southern Baptist Seminary (Al Mohler) is on the board of directors of FotF. There is apparently at least one active-duty military member (Lt. General Patrick P. Caruana, M.S.) listed as a board member as well--very possibly one of the major players in the US AFA religious harassment scandal and almost certainly acting as a dominionist liason. Another member is Bob Biehl, who is the president of "Masterplanning Group International" (listed as a "consultant" firm on the form, effectively a FotF frontgroup) who got kickbacks and pushes books on armageddonist and dominion theology. Another, Anthony Wauterlek, is a known member of the Coalition for National Policy-- one of two major "powwow" groups of dominionist leaders where policies are planned and coordinated among groups; he's also CEO of Wauterlek Investments, a major real estate/investment firm in Chicago. Another, lesser known figure and board member is Elsa Prince Broekhuizen--who happens to be the mother of Betsy DeVos, Dick DeVos' wife and a major member of the DeVos dominionist funding empire, and CEO of E.O.P. Management Company. Another board member, Steve Largent, is a former Seattle Seahawk and dominionist US congressman who proposed several laws--including "parent's rights" bills that would severely restrict the rights of kids and which were even rejected by other conservatives as too restrictive--and who is CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (the largest cell-company lobbying group in the US) and has attempted gubernatorial runs in Oklahoma on a dominionist platform. Another surprising listing is Ted Engstrom--who happens to be CEO of the charity World Vision (and which has forced me to, for the second time, downgrade a well-known charity as being a dominionism supporter; World Vision is now listed along with the Salvation Army as being bad guys on the Big List of Good and Bad Charities (now mirrored on the DK Wiki) thanks to the CEO's connection with FotF). Another board member is Kathleen Nielson, who is apparently connected with the PCA and promotes dominionist "wife should submit to the husband" claptrap and has held college talks on the true purpose of women being as wives and breeders. Another board member is Lee Eaton, who has links to both FotF and Family Research Council as well as being another confirmed CNP member; he also was national finance chair for Gary Bauer's Republican presidential nomination run in 2000 (Bauer lost the nomination to George W. Bush), and is president of Eaton Farms which seems to be a thoroughbred racing firm (of all things!) which has bred at least one Kentucky Derby winner; Eaton himself is based out of Florida but the farm is in Lexington.
In addition to these listings (courtesy of FotF's own financial report), there's Dobson himself as well as his wife--who, interestingly, runs the National Day of Prayer Taskforce as a FotF front:
Shirley M Dobson (director) served as an ex-officio member of another nonprofit organization, the National Prayer Committee (NPC), service as chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDPTF), and separately as a board member of Focus on the Family (FOF). FOF in furthering its exempt purpose provided certain services (accounting, warehousing, shipping, etc.) to NPC. NPC paid to Focus $14,000 during the year to offset the cost to Focus in providing those certain services. NPC also utilized FOF staff to perform all functions. The actual cost of wages and benefits was reimbursed to FOF by NPC. Additionally, NPC reimburses FOF for certain direct expenses incurred on NPC's behalf, and NPC utilized office space in FOF's facilities at no cost. NPC made a donation to FOF of $150,000 during FYE 9-30-05.
(Page 26 of original. Emphasis mine)
It's a very interesting look indeed at the sort of shell games that dominionist groups play with their finances to keep the taxman at bay--and keep multiple heads springing up a la whack-a-mole.
Interestingly, a later description of Focus On The Family Action reveals they could be in tax trouble too--they were organised as a 501(c)4 religious social welfare group, and are ALSO legally prohibited from lobbying and electioneering due specifically to the religious exemption used. (In fact, as a religious organisation, they shouldn't technically be allowed to file for 501(c)4 status at all.)
Later on in the appendices, Focus on the Family is courteous enough to give us a copy of their legal incorporation papers. These also explicitly note it is incorporated under religious incorporation laws, giving a powerful tool to remove its tax-exempt status. (Specifically, they are apparently incorporated under the Nonprofit Religious Corporation Law, in this case apparently using the wording of California's Nonprofit Religious Corporation Law--even though Focus on the Family is based in Colorado, they seem to have (bizarrely) incorporated in California--yet another thing that raises questions.) Their preamble pretty much states explicitly they're a religious organisation (thus making half of what they do flatly illegal):
(page 32 in original. Emphasis mine)
Legally (at least under California nonprofit incorporation laws) you cannot incorporate under this section unless you are a valid church or religious org that does not do lobbying--in fact, you can be subject to criminal penalties (including being forced to pay restitution) if you fraudulently incorporate as a religious group to avoid taxation.
Bizzarely, even though they seem to have incorporated in California, their address is listed as being in Colorado Springs (which in and of itself is legally dodgy, at least according to California law). Also--to show just how long dominionist movements seen as "new" have been around--the document gives the date of incorporation as June 7, 1977 (as explicitly noted on their corporate seal, according to their incorporation papers).
Focus on the Family also gives a nice summary of their entire media empire from a promotional flyer at the end of the tax filings--presumably to demonstrate why they are requiring moneys of around $140,000,000 yearly. Some of the lesser-known things FotF is promoting include "Christian counseling", including a referral service for "Christian counselors" (many of which use abusive practices almost indistinguishable from those used in Scientology) and even offering courses that provide the equivalent of CME credits (which legitimate psychiatrists and doctors use for continuing medical education required by state licensing boards) for the "Christian Counseling" industry. The previously mentioned funding of deceptive "Pregnancy counseling centers" (which often set up shop next to legitimate women's clinics and practice "bait and switch"--including free ultrasounds designed to guilt-trip a woman and subject her to hard-sell (and which may, ironically, put wanted pregnancies at risk, as dominionist centers are not medically licensed nor are persons properly trained in the use and contraindications for ultrasound screening), the misuse of tax dollars for this nonsense, deliberately spreading FUD about legitimate orgs like the March of Dimes, spread deceptive information (such as claims that the IUD and birth control pill are abortifacients or that condoms are ineffective or that spermicides cause cancer), and which specifically target kids--is mentioned, as is the "Focus on the Family Institute" which is an unaccredited institution which trains college age students in Dominionist Tactics 101--and falsely claims its collegiate credits are transferrable (only to other unaccredited, dominionist "Bible colleges" and places like Liberty University, Patrick Henry College, and other "dominionist mill" schools--not to legitimate colleges and universities) and which has promoted stuff considered radical for even proponents of "de-gaying therapy" that claim that gay and transgendered boys are the result of Daddy not encouraging them to be more manly. "Focus Over Fifty", the "parallel economy" alternative to AARP, has apparently been renamed to "Midlife and Beyond"; apparently they are explicitly promoted by International Foursquare (an Assemblies-descended "daughter" church founded by Aimee Semple McPherson and one of the earliest dominionist churches in the US, and which shares the same abusive tendencies as most churches explicitly adopting dominion theology) in part because one of the primary writers for "Midlife and Beyond" and its newsletters is associated with that denomination. Programs also exist explicitly to help parents raise future dominionists ("Heritage Builders"), promoting "de-gaying therapy" and the discredited hack-jobs of Paul Cameron ("Love Won Out"), a specific group to promote invasion of chaplaincy programs by dominionists, a dominionist doctor's association ("Physician's Research Councils" and "Physicians Outreach") including conferences targeted specifically at dominionist-friendly medical professionals as well as pushes for expansion of "moral refusal" clauses that include refusing healthcare services altogether to LGBT folks and also pushing for states to recognise dominionist-friendly board accreditation groups (like the "American College of Pediatricians") in an end-run against licensing requirements requiring doctors and other medical professionals to follow ethics laws; and "pastoral ministries" groups targeting pastors (and often being some of the prime culprits in sending illegal voter's guides and promoting their use in churches).
Needless to say, if a group were to follow up on this--like, oh, DefCon America or Americans United--this could provide some pretty potent ammo to stop this sort of sillybuggers.
Similar research, IMHO, should probably be done with AFA and some of the larger dominionist churches known to be linked to this sort of activity (like, for example, World Harvest Church in Columbus, OH). This could give some of the needed info to get the tax-exempt status of these idiots yanked.
(And yes, having their tax-exempt status yanked is a real threat--this is at least the second time that FotF has had to essentially split a lobbying wing off (the first time was in the formation of the Family Research Council) because of unwelcome attention from the IRS. And the IRS is starting to give the hairy eyeball to dominionist groups; recently Operation Rescue West lost its tax-exempt status for illegal electioneering.)
In the meantime--in the spirit of putting "action" to "Talk2Action"--here's how you can file your own complaint to the IRS. :3
The IRS has a complaint form here; I've taken the liberty to fill out the necessary information in Adobe Acrobat and have placed archives of it at a large number of hosting mirrors (you are encouraged to mirror widely, especially groups like DefCon America et al).
All you need to do with this form is fill out your name, address, phone number and any additional comments (and you can fill out the form anonymously if you wish). After that, print it out and mail it to:
Internal Revenue Service
Again, if you can, *please* mirror this on your own sites as well.
Focus on the Family and tax-form hanky-panky | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 hidden)
Focus on the Family and tax-form hanky-panky | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 hidden)