- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The Rev. Jesse Jackson's premier tax-exempt organization has not filed a state tax return for 2000 and is in danger of losing its legal authority to raise money, an official with the Illinois attorney general's office said.
"This is problematic," said Dan Anders, a spokesman for the office, which regulates tax-exempt businesses in Illinois. "The forms were due in June, and over the last eight months, we have sent notices and contacted them by phone.
"They told us a month ago that they would file, but we still don't have the forms. If they can't comply, their registration will be canceled."
He said the Citizenship Education Fund, Mr. Jackson's primary funding vehicle, is eight months delinquent in filing and has never asked for a deadline extension or explained the delay.
"They have not described to us what the problem is," Mr. Anders said.
Losing the organization's registration would cripple Mr. Jackson's empire, which includes the Wall Street Project and the International Trade Bureau. The Citizenship Education Fund provides money for Mr. Jackson's most prominent group, the for-profit Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. The coalition received $300,000 from the Citizenship Education Fund in 1999, tax records showed.
Rainbow/PUSH representatives did not return several calls and e-mail messages.
The Citizenship Education Fund is by far the most lucrative of Mr. Jackson's holdings, an organization devoted to "educating voters … on a non-partisan basis," according to its 1999 tax return.
The fund reported unaudited revenue for 2000 of $10 million. Total 2000 income for Mr, Jackson's four primary tax-exempt and for-profit organizations is listed at $17 million in the groups' financial records.
But the last year for which state and federal tax records are available for Mr. Jackson's groups is 1999. Although the returns themselves are public record once filed, privacy laws prevent the Internal Revenue Service from saying whether Mr. Jackson's groups have filed for 2000.
Like for-profit companies, tax-exempt organizations are required to file annual financial disclosure documents Form 990 stating their amount of revenue, expenditures and the names of paid officers. The state 990s also include audit reports, unlike the federal forms.
Mr. Jackson's Chicago headquarters had several personnel changes in the past year, most notably the departure of Chief Financial Officer Billy Owens, who left earlier this month. These changes have aroused suspicions of disarray in the Jackson camp.
"Things happen, and filings can be delayed for 30 to 60 days, but no matter how you cut it, eight months is well beyond the normal time," said Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. "An organization doing exceptionally well doesn't miss filings and jeopardize its entire way to survive. It makes you wonder if there is some kind of crisis."
Any tax-exempt organization is obligated by both law and community duty to disclose its finances promptly, said Ed Davis, director of state organizations for Common Cause.
"It is fundamental having that kind of openness," Mr. Davis said. "We ask all government agencies to have such openness, and it is important for any group to have that level of disclosure to tell people who they are."
Financial trouble also may have encouraged a recent switch in accounting methods by some of Mr. Jackson's groups, from the fiscal basis to an annual reporting year.
In a Feb. 11 fund-raising letter signed by Mr. Jackson, he asks that all members of his International Trade Bureau pay their dues.
"As of the close of 2001, all Trade Bureau memberships became due for renewal. We have transitioned annual membership renewal from a fiscal year to a calendar year basis, so please submit your membership renewal today."
Mr. Jackson has been dogged by financial reporting troubles in the past, but his organizations have never been threatened with revocation of their fund-rasing ability, the crux of any tax-exempt group's survival.
Mr. Jackson's poor stewardship of $5.6 million in federal grants and contracts received during the Carter administration, subsequently missed repayments and last year's debacle over unreported salaries in his organizations have given his enemies plenty of ammunition.
Conservative watchdog groups filed complaints and called for investigations after the disclosure of Mr. Jackson's finances last year, which initially were incomplete.
The American Conservative Union filed grievances with the IRS and the Federal Election Commission, requesting audits of organizations run by the 60-year-old civil rights figurehead.
Mr. Jackson, who earns around $500,000 annually, repeatedly has accused his detractors of political motivations.
"We are in danger because of the right wing," Mr. Jackson told a crowd in Atlanta at November's State of the Black World Conference. "The right wing has seized government. … Watch out in coming days of the right-wing media, the FBI, the IRS, targeting our leadership."

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