U.S. Tax Court Rules GOP Funder Loren Parks Owes Taxes for Foundation’s Political Spending

Decision comes 18 years after initial expenditures for ballot measure advertising.

By Nigel Jaquiss

Updated November 20

Loren Parks, the largest individual contributor in Oregon political history, lost a case this week in U.S. Tax Court.

On Nov. 17, the court found Parks, 89, liable for excise taxes on $639,000 his nonprofit foundation spent on radio ads for ballot measure campaigns between 1997 and 2000.

At issue was whether the Parks Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entirely funded by Parks, a medical products manufacturer, could engage in political activity.

Parks was the sole funder of his organization, which meant in addition to being classified as a 501(c(3), it was a 509(a) foundation. The IRS is particularly wary of political spending, according to the Tax Court opinion:

Congress concluded that private foundations, typically subject to the control of a single individual, family, or small group of persons, were especially susceptible to having their resources diverted to serve private rather than charitable purposes, thereby subverting the rationale for according them tax- exempt status and the benefits of being eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.

The Parks Foundation spent money to communicate with voters about ballot measures, often involving public safety.

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