Watchdog group sicced on Leslee Unruh

The Argus Leader is reporting today that a political watchdog group was sicced on Leslee Unruh for alleged lobbying activities which are said to contravene federal IRS Law for non-profits:
The complaint, filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, alleges that the National Abstinence Clearinghouse and the Alpha Center - both headed by well-known abortion opponent Leslee Unruh - failed to report lobbying activities as required under the tax code.

The two "have a clear pattern of flagrantly flouting the laws that govern charitable organizations," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. "The IRS should immediately investigate these organizations and revoke their tax-exempt status."

CREW, a liberal-leaning group, is calling for the IRS to revoke the two Sioux Falls-based groups' tax-exempt status and impose fines and other penalties.

and..

A spokeswoman for Unruh said she was unavailable for comment Wednesday. But the Alpha Center provided a written statement in which center director Ellie Brito-Larsen denied any wrongdoing and called the allegations "false and mean-spirited."

"Those allegations have been published to serve an ideologically driven agenda, and Alpha Center has been chosen for their cross hairs precisely because Alpha Center, in its mission to protect women's rights, has supported the newly enacted laws which prohibit the exploitation of women by banning abortion," Brito-Larsen said.

The Alpha Center also violated tax law, CREW claims, by "openly endorsing" Abstinence Clearinghouse and Alpha Center board member John Stratman for a Sioux Falls School Board seat in May 2005. The Alpha Center spoke favorably of Stratman in an electronic newsletter to its supporters.

Unruh said then that the e-mail was not an endorsement of a candidate, but rather information to help voters who share similar beliefs. "You've got to be very careful with that," Unruh told the Argus Leader at the time.

"We got a tip about this one, but they're not the first organizations we've filed an IRS complaint against," said Sloan, who added that she does not know who called CREW's attention to the two South Dakota organizations.
Read it all here. So, in this court of opinion, it looks like they're not going to disclose who made the accusation, making it difficult for one to face their accusers.

Regardless, it's all part of the political theatre that surrounds this issue, and isn't going to let up anytime in the near future as we approach November.

Stay tuned.

Comments

scimitar said…
You are mistaken, PP. The Argus did not say anyone was sicced on the Alpha Center/Abstinence Clearing House.

Moreover, it sounds like a legitimate complaint. Nonprofits can't lobby. Obviously, these ones are lobbying, and Leslie Unruh is making a lot of money from those organizations while doing her lobbying.

Does she really expect anyone at all to believe that while collecting a fat paycheck that her lobbying activities were completely unrelated to her organizations that she mentioned in every other sentence she spoke?

Further, nonprofits can't endorse candidates, which they clearly did in the school board race.

The IRS rules apply to everyone - even the self-righteous.

So Alpha Center's mission is to protect women's rights? Bizzarro world in the newspaper today.
Steve Sibson said…
"Nonprofits can't lobby."

BS, it just can't be a "substantial" part of their activity. Amazing how the left doesn't like freedom when it comes to political speech.
Anonymous said…
I would agree that this appears to be a legitimate issue that should be looked into. But somebody should also ask the same question about Planned Parenthood.
scimitar said…
Read the whole article Sibby, and maybe you'll learn something.
a_big_liberal said…
"Amazing how the left doesn't like freedom when it comes to political speech."

Free speech has nothing to do with this issue; the issue is whether or not the NAC, the Alpha Center, and/or Leslie Unruh broke the law.

If the Abstinence Clearinghouse and/or the Alpha Center wanted Unruh to do lobbying for them, great--that just means that they were legally required to file as such, instead of saying they had no lobbyist for 2003 and 2004. If they wanted to make her lobbying a substantial portion of their budget, they needed to get 501(c)(4) status.

Free speech is fantastic, but they can't claim to be a "charity" while doing significant direct lobbying.
PP said…
Scimitar - I know they didn't say it, but I'm inferring it since they said that "they got a tip".

Besides, my headlines are either a poor attempt at humor, or a poor attempt to grab attention.

"If it bleeds, it leads"

Reegardless, thanks for reading.
lexrex said…
scimitar, you're wrong about one thing: non-profits may lobby. they just have to report it. that's what the complaints about -- that they didn't report it on their federal tax returns. read your friend "bib liberal's" post.
scimitar said…
Maybe I don't know everything. For those who are watching, I don't use spellcheck either.
Steve Sibson said…
"Free speech has nothing to do with this issue; the issue is whether or not the NAC, the Alpha Center, and/or Leslie Unruh broke the law."

If the law violates free speech, then it is unconstitutional. Read the First Amendment.
Anonymous said…
Sibby,

You can tell it to the IRS. Speech isn't free when you get tax exempt status based on statutory restraints. She can say what she wants, do what she want, but she subjects her organization to forfeiture (sp) of that tax exempt status.

Don't through out a first amendment argument when you have NO idea what the issue is.

ps-spell check is for overly important blowhards.
Anonymous said…
Sibby, Sibby, Sibby...you are so predictable. Whenever a headliner Republican is in trouble (justification aside) there you are to blindly defend any and all actions...as long as you're advocating an ultra-conservative agenda, you will say or do anything and defend anybody. Please enjoy the cookie that Leslee Unruh will, no doubt, be bringing you for being such a good little helper.
Notla said…
Interesting topic, can she lobby or not. I do not remember seeing Unruh out in Pierre before the 2006 session. She may have been, but not there much. This session she was there a lot.

She has the right to lobby as an individual as anyone does, and no reporting required. However, if she was lobbying for 1215, which she was, and claimed to be doing it on behalf of, or as a lobbyst for Alpha Center, etc then that must be reported.

Sibby is right that a nonprofit can lobby as long as it is not a substanial part of their budget, but it must be reported. But again, was Unruh statedly lobbying for her nonprofits, or as an individual?
Anonymous said…
Leslie Unruh was registered as a lobbyist for both the Alpha Center and the National Abstinence Clearinghouse during the 2006 session. Prior to that she did not register. I do believe that she was around and pretty active during the 2004 session as well.
a_big_liberal said…
"If the law violates free speech, then it is unconstitutional. Read the First Amendment."

So, Sibby, does that mean that you feel that churches (as tax-excempt 501(c)(3) organizations) should be allowed to lobby and/or endorse candidates?

If so, then I'd be all about starting the Church of Liberalism (since Ann Coulter gave us the idea anyway), and according to you, we could do as much lobbying or candidate endorsement as we wanted, and that's all covered under the First Amendment. Since we'd be tax-exempt, one could say that your tax dollars would be funding our organization. Doesn't that just give you warm fuzzies all over?

I'm not saying that Unruh couldn't say what she wanted. I'm saying that my tax dollars shouldn't fund it. If the Abstinence Clearinghouse and the Alpha Center want to be political education groups (by lobbying for 1215, or endorsing candidates that do so), then all they had to do was file as a 501(c)(4) instead of a (c)(3). Instead, they apparently chose to misrepresent themselves as a "charitable non-profit," which made their lobbying illegal.

If they wanted to address the constitutionality of the restrictions of 501(c)(3) laws, they should have done so through the courts, not by lobbying and hoping no one noticed.
lexrex said…
big liberal, now you're getting the law wrong. c3s and c4s both may lobby. c4s may just do more of it. it wouldn't have mattered if they registered as a c4, instead. that's not the issue.

a c3 may lobby for passage of 1215 -- period. you don't have to set up as a c4.

churches and other c3 non-profits may never endorse a candidate. no one is arguing they should be able to. but they may lobby.

as to whether our tax dollars go to those lobbying efforts, that's a valid question. for long, i have objected to groups like planned parenthood, and abstinence clearinghouse, getting my tax dollars, especially if they are using that money to lobby.
K said…
I do not remember seeing Unruh out in Pierre before the 2006 session.

I know she was there in 2004; I felt like there was no where in the Capitol to hide from her.
Anonymous said…
To all who advocate the removal of ANYONE'S tax-exempt status: You surely realize that that action is a "thermonuclear option." Meaning: If you remove Leslee Unruh's Alpha Center's tax-exempt status, then the tax-exempt status of someone on the other side gets theirs yanked, too.

If I were these folk who persist in this action against Leslee Unruh, I'd want to cease and desist.
Steve Sibson said…
"If you remove Leslee Unruh's Alpha Center's tax-exempt status, then the tax-exempt status of someone on the other side gets theirs yanked, too.

If I were these folk who persist in this action against Leslee Unruh, I'd want to cease and desist."

Like Planned Parenthood.
Anonymous said…
If you are going to hang Leslee on this then lets be fair and check out a few specific individuals over at Planned Parenthood for some similar issues.
All I am saying is that if someone were to take the time to do some background checking on one or two people over there it would make some similar headlines.
Anonymous said…
Anon 1:20, I am afraid that is wishful thinking. No one is going to ask similar questions about Planned Parenthood, and if by some chance somebody did, the media (and other liberals) would whine about "harassment."
lexrex said…
anonymous 11:20, if that's so, you should file a complaint. if planned parenthood is breaking the law, then seek justice.

one of the biggest reasons it seems that the irs picks on conservatives is that complaints aren't filed.

i'm on your side. if there's something fishy at pp, let's go after them. fish or cut bait.

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