Campaign Finance Groups Petition Baucus: Investigate Nonprofits Yourself
Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) letter requesting that the IRS investigate a number of Section 501 nonprofit organizations — accused of abusing their tax-exempt status by devoting the majority of their energies to election activities — is getting a lot of approval from campaign finance advocacy groups, but also a friendly suggestion: Just do it yourself!
That’s what the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) urged today in a letter to Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which CREW notes has the jurisdiction to hold hearings or launch its own independent investigation into such organizations.
The accompanying press release says, “No Need to Punt to the IRS,” and includes the following from the group’s director, Melanie Sloan:
“Senator Baucus has correctly identified the gaping hole in our tax code that allows these faux tax-exempt groups to circumvent the law thanks to the flawed Citizens United decision,” said Melanie Sloan, CREW Executive Director. “Yet, as Chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Baucus can do something about this. He does not need to punt the matter to the IRS; rather, the Finance Committee can and should immediately begin its own investigation. The committee has the jurisdiction and authority to subpoena witnesses and documents to get a handle on the extent of the abuse of the tax code and begin working towards a legislative solution.”
The letter submitted by CREW points out numerous instances in which the Senate Finance Committee has launched similar investigations in the past, including a thorough investigation into The Nature Conservancy’s non-cash charitable contributions in 2003. In recent years, the committee has also conducted investigations into groups affiliated with ACORN, the tax-exempt ministries of six televangelists, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and others.
Now that Congress is on recess, of course, there’s little chance that anything will happen before the midterm elections. But a slate of hearings during the lame duck session is entirely possible.