Thursday, August 26, 2004

Formal Complaint Filed Over Planned Parenthood


(Washington D.C.) Attorneys for two EEOC complainants against Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles (PPLA) have filed a formal complaint with the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Justice concerning alleged electioneering violations by PPLA, a tax exempt nonprofit organization. The complaint by the law firm of Lively & Ackerman was formally presented to the Department of Justice on August 25, 2004. The DOJ complaint seeks revocation of PPLA’s tax-exempt status, interim penalties, or a formal opinion that indicates that all exempt charities may equally engage in the kind of political activity that PPLA is alleged to have engaged in during thus election cycle.
Pursuant to IRS regulations, “Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax. “
According to the formal complaint, which has several key exhibits attached to it, PPLA employees were on stage at a political event for John Kerry, and engaged in conduct that was allegedly designed to directly promote Kerry’s campaign. The complaint also presented sworn affidavits from PPLA employees, attesting to the fact that PPLA had displayed anti-Bush posters in its offices.
Other documents provided to the Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service indicate that:
1. “We [PPLA] need to lobby and support both of our U.S. Senators – Feinstein is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an influence on other moderates in the Senate; Boxer is a staunch ally who could face a tough re-election effort in 2004. We also have a voice among the many Democratic presidential hopefuls who travel to California for votes and campaign contributions.”
2. The operational plan FY2004-05 for PPLA, indicates that it was a goal of PPLA to “[e]nergize the pro-choice” public concerning the election and to assert “meaningful and measurable influence on public policy decisions. [emphasis added].”
It is also noteworthy that Gloria Feldt, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of American, also a tax exempt organization, stated in a recent fundraising letter that: “we have an unparalleled ability to reach out to citizens across the country and organize a level of pro-choice, grassroots support that politicians dare not to ignore.” The letter also contained several personal attacks on President Bush, and a “survey” designed to elicit responses concerning whether or not the recipient was “affiliated with a political party” and what the survey respondent thought about legislation concerning abortion. The survey also asks, “Are you aware of any anti-choice activities in your area?”
It is alleged in the complaint that these, or similar comments, appear to be prohibited electioneering and do not constitute acceptable lobbying activity as defined by IRS publications (IR-2004-59 4/28/04) and related law. While it is expected that PPLA will claim that these are protected lobbying activities, the complaint requests that the IRS and DOJ alternatively issue a binding opinion on whether churches and other exempt organizations are permitted to engage in similar political activity. For example, the complaint points out that, “As you may already know, the First AME Church in Los Angeles had Al Gore as a guest speaker during the California recall election, and the media was reporting that Gore was actively inciting the audience to vote “[No]”on the recall effort. If this, and the activities of PPLA, do not constitute a violation of the law, please advise so that we can properly advise any of our clients who may be operating exempt organizations.” The complaint alleges that all nonprofit organizations should be able to equally compete for the hearts and minds of voters.
According to lead attorney Richard D. Ackerman, “If it is true that Planned Parenthood is allowed to post anti-Bush material in its offices, actively engage its affiliates to back ideologue candidates, and to “energize” the public to a vote for a specific candidate or agenda, then it certainly seems that churches and other nonprofit organizations should be able to express their own thoughts on the upcoming election. If what appears to be electioneering is good enough for Planned Parenthood, then it ought to be good enough for those who oppose the agenda of Planned Parenthood and John Kerry. This election is just too important to allow only one side of the political spectrum have its day in the presidential debate over the sanctity of life, stem cell research, violence against unborn children, racism, eugenics, and the other important issues of public concern. If the DOJ and IRS indicate that all exempt organizations are allowed to engage in politicking, we will certainly provide that information to pastors and churches across the nation.”
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08/18/2004 01:29:01 PM