There are myriad ways to lie, but one particularly devious act of mendacity is willfully swearing a false oath, or falsifying an affirmation to tell the truth whether spoken or in writing concerning matters material to an official proceeding and technically it is perjury. Perjury is considered a serious offense because it usurps the power of the courts resulting in miscarriages of justice and, in America, Federal law classifies perjury as a felony providing a prison sentence of up to five years. The recent furor over the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizing applications for social welfare, tax-exempt organizations, has revealed that the IRS was doing its due diligence in screening political activists’ applications, and one aspect going unnoticed is the level of perjury most of the conservative groups are guilty of just filing false declarations. However, many of the groups are also guilty of perjury for failing to report, or underreporting, their political spending on tax forms filed with the IRS.
The rash of conservative political activist groups posing as social welfare nonprofits are forbidden from having political campaign activity as their primary purpose, and it is the IRS methodology of how they measured such activity while screening the groups’ social welfare applications that has Republicans in an uproar over the IRS’s treatment of patriot and teabagger groups. There are very specific questions asking for details on any campaign spending on forms social welfare non-profits are required to file with the IRS, and many conservative groups illegally use the social welfare designation to conceal dark money being injected into political campaigns. Some groups are reporting political donations to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), but to maintain their “social welfare” designation they are deliberately lying to the IRS and committing perjury by signing tax forms claiming they did not spend any money on political campaigns.
In just one example likely out of thousands, a dark money group, A Better America Now, based a couple of miles off the beach near Jacksonville, Florida promised on its 2011 application for “social welfare” tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service it did not plan to spend any money on elections. In the last election cycle, A Better America Now reported to the FEC it spent about $65,000 for mailers and TV advertising in a highly contested race for Texas’ 23rd congressional district seat. However, in its tax return recently filed with the IRS, the group claimed it did not spend any money on “direct or indirect political campaign activities” even though return was signed “under the penalty of perjury” by the group’s president and accounting firm preparing the tax return. Apparently, it is a common occurrence with conservative groups with tax-exempt “social welfare” designation to inject dark money into political campaigns to influence elections without revealing their donors. It is the only reason the groups seek “social welfare” designation in the first place and why Republicans are attempting to quash IRS scrutiny into conservative dark money groups.
It is not the first time A Better America Now, a Florida-based outfit, has injected anonymous money into Republican campaigns in different parts of the country, and according to Craig Holman of Public Citizen, “This type of inaccurate reporting by electioneering nonprofit groups has a long history, and it is rooted in the fact that the IRS almost never holds these groups accountable for such false declarations.” However, it is not just “inaccurate reporting” or “false declarations,” it is blatant perjury and it presents two prescient questions that demand an answer; why are these groups allowed to apply for or keep their social welfare designation, and why are they not prosecuted for perjury and imprisoned for “up to five years” as required by Federal law? In the A Better America Now case, it is not that there is a question of whether the dark money social welfare group lied to the IRS on its 501(c) application, because the contradiction between the FEC filing and 501(c) application is blatant. It is also obvious the group deliberately omitted the money it spent on a direct political campaign in Texas and signed, “under penalty of perjury,” a Federal document swearing “the statements are true, correct, and complete” and filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
During last year’s presidential campaign, it was revealed that Willard Romney committed perjury on various filings with the SEC and FEC, and yet despite an appeal to investigate and prosecute the false statements and clear case of perjury, Romney is not under investigation, indicted, or sitting where he belongs; in prison. One thing is certain, if a middle class American commits perjury on an IRS tax return they would be punished to the full extent of the law and it is another indication that in America, political lying and perjury are not only unpunished, but they are rewarded and there are indications they will continue breaking federal law as Republicans are attempting to neuter the IRS’s ability to hold political groups accountable for their illegal activities.
Religious organizations are also breaking the law with impunity by campaigning from the pulpit in violation of their IRS agreement to avoid paying taxes, and it goes far beyond just paying income taxes. Churches are exempt from paying property taxes regardless they are sitting on prime real estate and using the services the rest of the community funds, and clergy double-dips on personal income tax liability through their shadowy compensation schemes other Americans are forbidden from using. It is high time the Internal Revenue Service is given the support and authority they need to hold religious and political groups accountable for their illegal machinations to influence elections and avoid paying their fair share like the rest of the population.
America is a nation founded on the rule of law, but along the way two of the most powerful groups in the country are flaunting the law with impunity and when the IRS did attempt to do its due diligence and scrutinize purely political activities, they have been reviled by Republicans. There is no specific law against outright lying that Republicans are notorious for, but there are Federal statutes defining perjury as “willfully swearing a false oath, or falsifying an affirmation to tell the truth whether spoken or in writing concerning matters material to an official proceeding,” and at the least, signing an IRS tax return with false information is perjury. However, dark money groups posing as “social welfare” non-profits exceed just committing perjury in signing a tax return, and they deserve a thorough investigation by the Department of Justice to revoke their tax-exempt status, reveal their outside anonymous donors, and at the least imprison them for five years for each instance of filing false documents.