ALEC: Partisanship Disguised as Charity

Read this New York Times editorial: 

There is little dispute that statehouses across the nation are greatly in the sway of a conservative, pro-business advocacy organization called ALEC, for the American Legislative Exchange CouncilALEC has been the driving force behind state laws that have effectively marginalized minority voters, crimped union rights and undermined environmental protections. It has also promoted the dangerous Stand Your Ground statutes favored by the gun lobby.

For all its right-wing political muscle, ALEC has long enjoyed tax-exempt status as a nonpartisan charity under section 501(c )(3) of the tax code, which is supposed to bar it from influencing legislation as a substantial part of its activities. And because it is a charity, its donors are allowed to deduct contributions from income taxes.

This outrageous situation has to be reversed. Marcus Owens, the former chief of the I.R.S. division in charge of tax exemptions, has recently filed a complaint with the I.R.S. charging ALEC with illegal lobbying and partisan violations that should lead to revocation of its tax exemption. We agree. “ALEC has deliberately and repeatedly failed to comply with some of the most fundamental federal tax requirements applicable to public charities,” Mr. Owens said in the complaint.

The I.R.S. has been wary of investigating heavyweight organizations for engaging in political operations while enjoying taxpayer subsidies as charities or “social welfare” groups. But it has begun sending questionnaires to some groups, and Mr. Owens’s complaint deserves priority attention. ALEC, which suffered the defection of corporate donors as its one-sided agenda was publicized, denies it is a force for conservative Republicanism. It says it is open to Democrats for its pro-market views.

But Mr. Owens’s complaint notes that 72 of ALEC’s 74 state chair seats are filled by Republican lawmakers. He also charges that legislators’ family travel and expenses at annual conferences, paid by corporate members of ALEC, have not been properly reported. All of this deserves an investigation by the I.R.S. Political junketeering is not charity, and it’s a fraud on taxpayers to claim it is.

 

 

 

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