January 25, 2014

In this segment with Larry Kudlow, Pat Boone explains exactly why Friends of Abe, a conservative group of Hollywood types, shouldn't have tax-exempt status.

The New York Times reported last week that members of the group were complaining that the IRS was putting the group under a microscope and delaying their tax-exempt status while requesting a lot of information about their membership and website.

Now the Internal Revenue Service is reviewing the group’s activities in connection with its application for tax-exempt status. Last week, federal tax authorities presented the group with a 10-point request for detailed information about its meetings with politicians like Paul D. Ryan, Thaddeus McCotter and Herman Cain, among other matters, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the organization’s confidentiality strictures, and to avoid complicating discussions with the I.R.S.

Friends of Abe was started by conservative actor Gary Sinise and if it functions as Pat Boone claims it does, then it should not be given tax-exempt status under 501(c)(3), which permits personal contributions to be deductible on one's tax return. Here's what Boone says about it:

We meet to discuss things and to have constructive conversation with people with whom we share values and we don't want -- some of us don't want to lose our jobs. I'm not threatened by it because I'm virtually out of the industry. But a lot of people from top to bottom, some over 2,000 of us who really have to count the cost if we speak out freely just in public about our beliefs and so we have looked for an opportunity to just be together, to have fellowship. we have speakers, occasionally have dinners or luncheons and it is just a friendship, a fellowship. So to deny for -- for the IRS to deny Friends of Abe who are simply for government and for the people like our good friend Abe is ominous.

The rules for organizations to qualify as tax-exempt under 501(c)(3) require that purpose of the organization meet some specific charitable purpose, defined as "charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals."

Conservative Hollywood types who are paranoid about losing their jobs and want to schmooze with each other don't really fit that definition.

On their tax report for 2011, Friends of Abe describes their purpose as to sponsor various types of educational forums, panels and lectures. However, it seems clear that those program services are limited to members of the group and not open to the general public.

Once again, it appears the IRS is doing their job and acting on behalf of the taxpayers who are being asked to foot the bill for this group's existence. It seems conservatives have difficulty understanding that they have absolute freedom to gather and invite whoever they want to their schmoozefests, but if they want a tax deduction for it, they have to abide by the rules.

I'm not entirely certain Mr. Boone is being completely honest about this group either. This article indicates that Friends of Abe was politically active in 2012. Good for the IRS for considering actual facts and circumstances instead of just rubber-stamping the request.

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