The IRS was asked Wednesday to strip the Southern Poverty Law Center of its tax-exempt status following the watchdog organization’s publication of dozens of allegedly disparaging comments connecting President Trump to white supremacists and other extremists during last year’s White House race.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) filed a formal legal complaint with the IRS in response to what the organization describes as a “flagrant, continued and intentional campaign” waged by the SPLC against Mr. Trump and other Republicans in violation of federal law.
Regulations enforced by the IRS prohibit charitable and education organizations such as the the SPLC from taking positions in favor of or against any active candidate for public office, FAIR said in a statement. Nonetheless, the self-described immigration reform group said its found nearly 50 instances during the 2016 presidential election cycle of the SPLC engaging in unlawful speech worthy of a federal review.
“The SPLC went way over the line in this last election,” FAIR President Dan Stein said Wednesday. “It publicly engaged in deep, deliberate and unlawful participation during the 2016 presidential election cycle, flagrantly violating its non-profit tax status,
Mr. Stein accused the group of “widespread, illegal electioneering” in 2015 and 2016.
The 38-page complaint mostly revolves around the content published by the SPLC through either its “Hatewatch” anti-extremist monitoring initiative or its “Intelligence Report,” a quarterly publication that contains the watchdog’s latest findings with respect to hate crimes and other extremist activity.
According to FAIR, the SPLC used “politically charged language” in its publication and statements “in a blatant effort to stir opposition for prospective Republican presidential candidates and the eventual Republican nominee and influence the electoral decisions of voters nationwide.”
“In particular, the SPLC continued through the primary and general presidential campaigns to print material that opposed the candidacy of President Donald Trump, issuing overt smears that sought to tie President Trump to ‘white supremacists,’ nationalists and antigovernment conspiracists,” FAIR alleges.
SPLC’s publications, according to FAIR, demonstrate the watchdog’s “unmistakable explicit intent … to create opposition to and otherwise harm and oppose the election of a Republican to the office of President.”
SPLC publications specifically mentioned in FAIR’s complaint include May 2016 articles titled “Right-Wing Extremists Hail the Ascension of ‘Emperor Trump’ as GOP Nominee” and “Donald Trump’s Continuing White Nationalist Problem,” among others.
“Any honest examination of this record can only lead to the conclusion that the SPLC was engaged in ongoing prohibited political activity,” Mr. Stein said.
Mr. Trump’s presidential bid did, in fact, garner the public support of several widely-known white nationalists, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, albeit not without being subsequently rejected by the candidate’s campaign.
“[W]e do not intervene in elections for or against any candidate for public office,” SPLC President Richard Cohen told The Washington Times on Wednesday. “At the same time, we work tirelessly in pursuit of our mission to educate the public about hate and bigotry in the public sphere, including hate and bigotry that infects the political process.
“Despite FAIR’s threat, we promise to continue to do so,” he added.
Wednesday’s complaint was sent to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, Texas Republican, in addition to the heads of the IRS and Treasury Department.