Texas

DC Group Wants Conservative Austin Think Tank Stripped of Tax Status for Political Work

Austin. A non-profit group has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service seeking to revoke tax-exempt status from the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Accountability Campaign, which describes itself as a watchdog for “abuses in public life,” said the Austin-based foundation abused its nonprofit status by making “daring forays” into political campaigning.

The foundation, which has grown to become Austin’s largest think tank, engaged in an unacceptable political campaign when it invited Republican candidates, such as the unsuccessful Arizona gubernatorial contender Kari Lake, to a charity event near Austin in late September, the complaint says. Monday.

None of the opponents of the invited Democratic speakers in last year’s midterm elections were invited to the 2022 Victory summit, the Washington, D.C. group noted.

In response to the complaint, Brian Phillips of the foundation offered just six words.

“This is stupid. Very, very stupid,” wrote Phillips, director of public relations for the think tank.

The IRS expressly prohibits nonprofits from “directly or indirectly participating in or interfering in any political campaign on behalf of (or against) any candidate for elected public office,” the federal agency’s website says.

Violations may result in cancellation or denial of the organization’s tax exemption.

Michelle Kuppersmith, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability, said the group relied on information and videos that were publicly available on various websites such as Facebook and YouTube.

“They don’t even try to hide it,” Kuppersmith said.

The 2022 Victory Summit was held September 22–24 at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines in Cedar Creek, about 30 minutes east of Austin, and was touted as a political fundraising opportunity.

At least five speakers were Republican candidates, including Utah Senator Mike Lee, Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick, Rep. Chip Roy of Austin, and State Senator Paul Bettencourt of Houston and Lake City.

Greg Sindelar, chief executive officer of the fund, moderated the conversation with Lake. At one point, Lake was wary of talking about her gubernatorial race against Secretary of State Kathy Hobbs, a Democrat.

“I know I shouldn’t get too political here,” Lake said.

Sindelar intervened, “Oh, it’s all right.”

The complaint alleges that the foundation used social media, traditional news outlets “and other channels” to inappropriately participate in political campaigns.

During the 2022 Victory Summit, Carol M. Swain, Nashville Distinguished Fellow for Constitutional Studies, tweeted “Supporting Ms. Lake,” the complaint noted.

“I am thrilled and proud to have met Kari Lake, future Governor #Arizona. Kari has what America needs,” Swain wrote.

“The TPPF has shared various other messages that cross the threshold from advocating the issue to interfering with the political campaign shortly before the election,” the Campaign for Accountability complaint reads.

He cited a Facebook post dated Nov. 8, Election Day, in which he urged people to vote and “listed the many issues that Republicans relied on to single out candidates in the 2022 election cycle, including border security and immigration, inflation, the electoral process, and school program”.

On October 26, Chuck DeVore, the Foundation’s chief national initiative officer, wrote a commentary on the Fox News website titled “Democrats soft on crime and interims give Americans a chance to choose safety,” the Campaign for Accountability notes.

An article posted on the foundation’s website expresses approval of the GOP government. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma and Bill Lee of Tennessee, saying they “funded the police”. This contrasted with moves by some major Democratic-controlled cities to cut police budgets in 2020, writes Devore. Both Stitt and Lee were running for re-election last year, and DeVore’s comment was “published shortly before the election,” the Campaign for Accountability notes.

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