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Nonprofits targeted by Bush goons at the IRS, government agencies

James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a group that does not fully support President Bush’s program advocating abstinence only. (Matthew Cavanaugh for The New York Times)

[Cross-posted at Big Brass Blog]

Chris Kromm at Facing South highlights the unseemly behavior of various government agencies, including the IRS, of targeting nonprofits for alleged “political activity,” or threatening to pull (or pulling) funding from organizations that don’t tow the line on conservative policies like abstinence education. The organization with the highest profile of late is the NAACP, which is refusing to hand over internal documents to Bush’s bureaucratic henchmen that intend to revoke its tax-exempt status. From today’s NYT:

…While it is rare for an organization to defy the I.R.S. openly, the N.A.A.C.P. is not the only group that believes it is being made a government target for its positions on issues.

Roughly a dozen nonprofit organizations have publicly contended that government agencies and Congressional offices have used reviews, audits, investigations, law enforcement actions and the threat of a loss of federal money to discourage them from activities and advocacy that in any way challenge government policies, and nonprofit leaders say more are complaining quietly.

“In previous administrations, there’s been the occasional instance of what might appear to be retaliation, but when it started happening in a serial way, it began to look like a pattern to us,” said Kay Guinane, counsel for the nonprofit advocacy project of OMB Watch, a government watchdog group that has published two reports on the issue.

Some of the other non-profits targeted include (Facing South):

  • Advocates for Youth, a group which has received government support for two decades to educate young people about reproductive health, in September 2002 was targeted by Congressional Republicans for questioning abstinence-only education. The General Accounting Office later informed Advocates they were under investigation.
  • The Global Health Council lost federal funding because it invited Planned Parenthood and the United Nations Population Fund to a debate about preventing HIV transmission among youth.
  • Three days after testifying before Congress that Bush’s “Clear Skies Initiative” was too lenient on polluting power plants, an official with the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators/Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials says “the groups were asked by Senator James M. Inhofe … to supply several years of tax returns, lists of contributors and other documentation.”

On the wingnut side Jerry Falwell actually ran afoul of the IRS several times for mixing preaching and political activity. In 1993, his television ministry, the Old Time Gospel Hour, agreed to pay $50,000 in tax penalties for political activity in 1986 and 1987.

In July 2004, The Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a complaint with the IRS asking for an investigation of Falwell’s Jerry Falwell Ministries, which is not supposed to engage in political activity, and his political organization, Liberty Alliance. The Bush administration didn’t initiate action against this flagrant nose-thumbing at the IRS by Falwell:

“…every political conservative, every evangelical Christian, every pro-life Catholic, every traditional Jew, every Reagan Democrat, and everyone in between to get serious about re-electing President Bush.â€?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding