NEWS: Complaint Filed with Oregon Attorney General Against Right-Wing “Charity” for Excessive Political Activities

Freedom Foundation’s Oregon “Charity” Status Questioned

Salem, OR:  Fire fighters, nurses, teachers, Asian and Latino groups, women’s health advocates, and others are calling on Oregon State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to launch an investigation into the Freedom Foundation’s tax-exempt status and compliance with state rules. (Letter signed by Oregon groups.)

The Northwest Accountability Project, a watchdog group, has uncovered evidence from Freedom Foundation leadership and staff that their covert purpose is to attack labor unions in order to “defund the political left” and advance certain conservative candidates, a clear violation of IRS and state rules.

The Freedom Foundation’s “number one stated focus is to defund the political left.” says Ann Marie Gurney, Freedom Foundation’s Oregon Coordinator in a video released by the Northwest Accountability Project. “I hope you quote me right this time. So wherever you are in this room, our goal is to defund you.”

According to the Oregon complaint, by trying to “defund the political left,” the non-profit Freedom Foundation is likely violating federal and state rules governing 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charities and prohibit them from partisan, political activities.

“The Freedom Foundation is blatantly ignoring the state and federal rules that prohibit tax-exempt organizations from engaging in partisan political activity – and as a result, they’re getting tax breaks while taxpayers are footing the bill for their conservative attacks,” said Andrew Biviano, Founding Board Member of the Northwest Accountability Project. “It’s outrageous that the Freedom Foundation is engaging in partisan attacks on the middle class, the environment, and the values that we hold here in the Pacific Northwest, while hiding behind a bogus 501(c)(3) tax exemption.”

During a recorded Republican fundraiser for Lynda Wilson (R-Vancouver, WA), Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe says, “Why are we focused on the labor unions?…They are by far the largest contributors to the Democratic Party.” In the video, Freedom Foundation staffer Scott Roberts explains, “for every dollar [unions] spend defending their idea is every dollar they don’t have to spend against our good candidates.”

Federal and state rules prohibit 501(c)(3) charities like the Freedom Foundation from participating in political, election or partisan activities.

Revocation of the group’s tax-exempt status could have a huge financial impact on the organization. It would mean that Freedom Foundation donors could no longer deduct contributions from their federal taxes, it would restrict contributions from charitable foundations such as the Murdock Trust, and the organization may have to pay other state taxes.

According to the IRS website, 4,800 Oregon non-profits lost their tax-deductible non-profit status in the last 5 years for failing to file proper documents. A much smaller group of charities have lost their 501(c)(3) status when they strayed too far into politics or exceeded lobbying limits. On the right is the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, which had its IRS charitable status revoked in 2014 for a “pattern of deliberate and consistent intervention in political campaigns.”  On the left is the Sierra Club, which lost its 501(c)(3) status 50 years ago for exceeding lobbying spending limits when it placed ads in the New York Times opposing dams in the Grand Canyon.

The consumer complaint in Oregon is the third complaint filed with federal and state authorities against the Freedom Foundation in recent months. Late last year, in a detailed complaint, more than a dozen Northwest organizations demanded the IRS revoke Freedom Foundation’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for “flagrantly” disregarding federal laws banning political campaign intervention. A few weeks ago, groups in Washington filed a similar complaint calling on WA State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to launch an investigation into the Freedom Foundation’s activities.

The Northwest Accountability Project is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization dedicated to educating the public on the issues that enhance the well-being of middle-class families and workers while shining a light on extremism and the moneyed special interests that attempt to bring an agenda of hate and division to Washington and Oregon. More info

Contact: Heather Weiner 206/218-7194