- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Nearly 75 percent of the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson's travel expenses last year were covered by Democratic Party committee efforts to get out the vote, according to a news report released yesterday.
The civil rights leader, who faces mounting pressure from the media and public-interest groups questioning his finances, provided a 102-page "internal audit" to a Chicago daily newspaper in an attempt to appease his critics.
As he responded to old accusations, a new salvo was fired at Mr. Jackson, this one coming from the American Conservative Union.
The nonprofit conservative advocacy group sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), urging the federal agency to audit two of Mr. Jackson's organizations. It was the second group to request IRS action in the past week, joining the National Legal and Policy Center, which also recently demanded that the IRS investigate Mr. Jackson's finances.
The internal audit of Mr. Jackson's Chicago headquarters was reported in the Chicago Tribune.
The audit, which began in January, covers four Jackson-led groups, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Citizenship Education Fund, Push for Humanity and People United to Serve Humanity.
Among the newly released information, the Tribune reported that Billy Owens, chief financial officer for Mr. Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said that various Democratic Party committees footed the bill for $450,000 of Mr. Jackson's $614,000 in travel expenses last year as part of the party's get-out-the-vote efforts during last year's election campaign.
The practice of paying for the travel of celebrities by both parties to encourage voter turnout is a well-entrenched tradition, noted Rick Hess, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.
"It's part and parcel of bona fide election activity," Mr. Hess told The Washington Times yesterday.
Mr. Owens said in the Tribune report that there is a "high probability" that the 1999 tax return for the Citizenship Education Fund may have to be amended because it failed to list the names of its top five highest paid employees. Karin Stanford, the woman with whom Mr. Jackson fathered an illegitimate daughter in 1999, may appear on that form. She served as the education fund's director.
Mr. Owens also told the Tribune that Miss Stanford resigned from the Citizenship Education Fund in September 1999, providing only two days notice even though the group was preparing work on a research grant in which she was closely involved.
"At that point, it was necessary to maintain, if you will, friendly relationships, until we could get the information we needed to keep the office running and to provide a smooth transition to the next person," Mr. Owens told the newspaper. "So, they gave her money to move and we also did a contract for her … where we advanced her money on the contract to finish this broadband technology study."
Neither Mr. Owens nor Mr. Jackson returned repeated phone calls yesterday.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Jackson, Keanna Peyton, referred inquiries about his internal audit to a press conference scheduled tomorrow in Chicago.
But the Tribune quoted Mr. Jackson as saying: "I've seen this attack by the right-wing before. It's about trying to dismember our organization."
Mr. Jackson's comment was an addendum to a statement he made last week in an interview with a Chicago television station.
"We file our [tax] returns every year," he said. "We have an audit. It's the government's job to protect its rights, not to allow right-wing extremists to seek to discredit or destroy us."
The release of the internal audit did nothing to assuage critics, who have wondered why Mr. Jackson's finances have been left alone since a late-70s audit found shoddy accounting practices.
The internal audit was selective, noted Cleta Mitchell, a Washington lawyer who has worked with various conservative groups on political issues
"It was selective unless he opens them up for everybody, for all the newspapers, and puts them on the Internet," Miss Mitchell said. "And if Jesse is really opening up his finances, why don't we have an independent auditor come in?"
Mr. Jackson's finances have received intense scrutiny since January, when he acknowledged his extramarital relationship with Miss Stanford. The National Legal and Policy Center's 27-page complaint accused the Citizenship Education Fund of violating tax law by using funds for personal purposes and questioned whether "paying off a mistress … is a legitimate use of assets."
The American Conservative Union's letter to the IRS questioned the tax filings of the Citizenship Education Fund, noting discrepancies in reporting and the possible use of charitable funds for "personal inurement" and political campaign purposes.
The Tribune yesterday quoted Mr. Owens as saying that an ongoing review of records since 1997 has produced "no evidence, thus far, to make me believe that anything is wrong."
But Peter Flaherty, president of the National Legal and Policy Center, said the newly released information combined with Mr. Jackson's vehement attacks on his critics is significant.
"I think this gives our complaint great credibility," Mr. Flaherty said. "I hope it will make the Internal Revenue Service conduct the kind of investigation that is warranted here."
Jerry Seper contributed to this article.

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