US abuse of charities in politics

There are a lot of abuses in the US involving money in politics. Huge amounts of money are involved, being used to try and attain huge amounts of power. Regulations and laws are generally pathetic when it comes to controlling abuses.

The Washington Post has a story that shows how easy it is to abuse the intent of charities as a way of financing political activism tax free.

Trump adviser received salary from charity while steering Breitbart News

Donald Trump’s chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon accepted $376,000 in pay over four years for working 30 hours a week at a tiny tax-exempt charity in Tallahassee while also serving as the hands-on executive chairman of Breitbart News Network.

During the same four-year period, the charity paid about $1.3 million in salaries to two other journalists who said they put in 40 hours a week there while also working for the politically conservative news outlet, according to publicly available documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

The salary payments are one part of a close relationship between the nonprofit Government Accountability Institute, a conservative investigative research organization, and for-profit Breitbart News.

Breitbart News openly and actively promoted Trump and trashed Clinton. Bannon was employed as a Trump campaign advisor in August, and will now become one of Trump’s most senior assistants.

The ties between the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) and Breitbart call into question the assertions the institute made in filings to the IRS that it is an independent, nonpartisan operation, according to philanthropic specialists and former IRS officials.

Bannon launched the institute in 2012, shortly after taking the helm of Breitbart. He sought tax-exempt status from the IRS by describing the institute as an education group to help the United States and other countries maintain a “higher quality of life” through “promotion of economic freedom,” according to IRS filings.

The institute’s board of directors included Rebekah Mercer, director of the conservative family charity, who has become an influential adviser to Bannon and Trump, disclosure forms show.

So it’s a tax free sham, like many US political organisations.

Under federal code, tax-exempt groups known as 501(c)3 public charities must “not participate in, or intervene in [including the publishing or distributing of statements], any political campaign on behalf of [or in opposition to] any candidate for public office.” 

That’s a joke.

GAI spokeswoman Sandy Schulz told The Post the institute “is and always has been in total compliance with all 501(c)3 rules.”

So is that, but like others they get away with it.

Rob Reich, a political science professor at Stanford University who studies philanthropy, said the IRS regulations are poorly written and difficult to enforce. As a consequence, ideologically driven charities across the political spectrum are taking advantage of the agency’s minimal oversight.

Huge amounts of money slosh around with impunity in the United States’ corrupt democracy.