Sen. Tom Cotton is calling for a “serious and thorough investigation” of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center and its tax-exempt status.
The Arkansas Republican urged the Internal Revenue Service in a letter on Tuesday to launch a probe into whether the SPLC “should retain its classification as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization” citing recent news reports which have “confirmed the “long-established fact that the SPLC regularly engages in defamation of its political opponents.”
“In fact, the SPLC’s defining characteristic is to fundraise off of defamation,” the senator wrote.
Today I asked the IRS to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a political hate group masquerading as a non-profit. Read my letter here:https://t.co/Wj5wadxnZ2
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) April 2, 2019
“The business model has paid well,” Cotton continued in the letter. “The SPLC has accrued more than $500 million in assets. According to the group’s most recent financial statement, it holds $121 million offshore in non-U.S. equity funds. The SPLC uses these assets to pay its executives lavish salaries far higher than the comparable household average.”
Cotton also cited reports from CNN that the radical organization “suffers from a pervasive racism culture,” and from The New York Times that employees have claimed that its leadership is “complicit in decades of racial discrimination, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment and/or assault.”
Last month, the non-profit civil rights organization which purports to champion the rights of minorities and women fired its co-founder and former chief litigator, Morris Dees for misconduct.
Southern Poverty Law Center under fire; founder fired amid racist accusations and reports of massive offshore assets https://t.co/4JMiATKpFS
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 15, 2019
The group’s president, Richard Cohen, has also stepped down.
“Based on these reports, and in the interest of protecting taxpayer dollars from a racist and sexist slush fund devoted to defamation, I believe that the SPLC’s conduct warrants a serious and thorough investigation,” Cotton’s letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig stated.
The Southern Poverty Law Center “Poverty Palace” has amassed a fortune by preying on fears of rich liberals in New York & California. It’s vacuumed up millions that could’ve gone to actual poverty relief. Time for the IRS to look into this fake non-profit.https://t.co/3i2uNX4K8T
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) April 2, 2019
“Engaging in systematic defamation is not a tax-exempt purpose: Federal law requires nonprofits classified as 501(c)(3) organizations to comply with IRS guidelines and have a “tax-exempt purpose,” Cotton wrote with the bolded text.
He went on to point out other ways the left-wing organization, which frequently targets conservative and Christian organizations as hate groups, “defames” other entities.
He explained how the SPLC uses its “hate map” to list the Family Research Council, the Alliance for Defending Freedom, the Center for Immigration Studies and other mainstream conservative groups right beside racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
The group has also targeted individuals like Dr. Ben Carson who was called a “white supremacist” and British Muslim journalist Maajid Nawaz, who was added to a list of “anti-Muslim extremists.” The SPLC was ordered to pay Nawaz $3.4 million in a 2018 defamation lawsuit.
Cotton noted in his letter that the group’s targeting of others in this way has caused damaged reputations but also injuries and threats, including “an attempted mass murder.”
“The SPLC operates a tax-sheltered slush fund to enrich its leadership: In addition to failing to have a tax-exempt purpose, the SPLC’s peculiar financial situation warrants your attention,” the letter continued.
“Federal law prohibits tax-exempt organizations from inuring to the benefit of any private individual. Yet the SPLC has accrued more than $500 million in assets as of October 31, 2018. Reportedly and inexplicably, $121 million of these assets are parked in offshore accounts,” Cotton wrote.
He added that the SPLC’s “shady financial practices” have earned it an “F” rating from Charity Watch.
“Perhaps the SPLC was founded for noble purposes and decades ago performed some good work, but what is left of the SPLC is no longer operating in a manner consistent with IRS guidelines and applicable law,” Cotton concluded, reiterating the call for “immediate action.”
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