May 30, 2008

IRS Should Investigate Christian Businessmen's Connection

According to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the IRS should investigate a religious group's fund-raising activity for Washington State Republican gubernatorial candidate, Dino Rossi. The alleged violation of federal tax law occurred when the Tacoma, WA, branch of the Christian Businessmen's Connection reportedly engaged in political fundraising during a May 21 dinner they hosted for Rossi.

Federal tax law clearly prohibits organizations with tax-exempt status from intervening in political campaigns. Doing so jeopardizes - or is at least supposed to jeopardize - their tax-exempt status.

According to Americans United, the Christian Businessmen's Connection violated the law when president of the Tacoma branch, Dwight Mason, indicated that fund-raising envelopes for Rossi had been left on the tables during a dinner they were hosting.
The Tacoma News Tribune reported that Mason prayed for Rossi and then said, "OK, at your table, this is not a fundraiser, though Dino did leave with us a couple envelopes there, and I'm sure he'd appreciate that."
According to Americans United, a spokesperson for Rossi has confirmed that the envelopes were left on the tables and that they were indeed used to collect donations for Rossi.

My favorite part of the story is that Mason initially denied any improper fund-raising and then stopped talking to the media when a tape of the event emerged.
Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, "Non-profit religious organizations are supposed to meet people's spiritual needs, not shill for candidates."
Once again, it appears that watchdog groups such as Americans United are needed to make sure that these laws are enforced.

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