The Daily Caller continues its series on Media Matters for America, this time looking at its tax returns and its tax exemption as a political organization. The tax returns don’t reveal anything shocking, except for one point of hypocrisy. In the first report, The DC revealed that the personal assistant to founder David Brock carries a concealed Glock when Brock goes out in public to protect him from attackers, either real or imaginary. That is a defensible action to take as political debate sometimes brings out the fringe crazies, as I can personally attest, except for two things. First, if he’s carrying in Washington DC, it’s probably not legal. And the reason it’s not legal is because of organizations like Media Matters for America, whose tax returns show a hefty amount of cash earmarked for gun-control activism:
Media Matters reported at the end of 2010 that $612,500 of its assets were “restricted” by donors to be applied to “gun and public safety issues.” During this time, The Daily Caller has already reported, Brock’s personal assistant was carrying a holstered and concealed Glock handgun when he accompanied Brock to events.
That’s hardly the only example of hypocrisy in the gun-control movement. A while back, I wrote about the difficulties in California over open carry; when researching that post, I ran across an article that reported on the difficulties in getting a concealed-carry permit in the state, thanks to the overwhelming power of the sheriffs to make arbitrary decisions on who should get them. In the county of Los Angeles, few permits get issued, but one went to an attorney who conducts activism for — you guessed it — gun-control legislation. I can’t find the link at the moment, but I’ll add it if I come across it.
On the matter of MMFA’s tax exemption, The DC reports that Congress may open an investigation into their status:
Congressional Republicans are now interested in examining the Media Matters For America‘s tax-exempt status, The Daily Caller has learned. Doing so would cause the GOP to wade into the complex world of tax laws that govern “exempt organizations” such as Media Matters and more than 1 million other charitable organizations that are exempt from federal income tax.
Media Matters’ critics have questioned its tax-exempt status for some time. The Internal Revenue Service has a series of requirements that must be met before organizations can qualify. Successful applicants pay no federal income tax because the government presumes such charities perform services that benefit the public. Donors also may deduct their charitable contributions.
One central requirement before an organization like Media Matters can achieve the gold-standard nonprofit status — known by its place in the tax code, Section 501(c)(3) – is that it may not “attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities” or “participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.”
But the law, and how it is implemented, is complex.
I think this is a mistake. Setting a precedent of opening tax investigations on the basis of partisan grudges is one that Republicans and their allied political organizations will regret, and probably sooner rather than later.
What we should be doing is ending tax exemptions for political organizations entirely, along with the forty years of campaign finance laws that ended up with super-PACs running elections. Eliminate the tax deductions for all political contributions, or perhaps all but those going to a specific candidate, although I’d prefer to make it absolute. Taxpayers don’t need to subsidize the contributions of others through the tax code.
At the same, eliminate the contribution limits to candidates and instead impose requirements for immediate and continuous disclosure on the Internet through the FEC. The technology to accomplish this has existed for well over a decade, and should be put into use for true transparency. Taking those two steps would put the cash back into the hands of the candidates, who would be held accountable for the messaging conducted in the campaigns.
Let’s fix the real problem, rather than attack the symptoms, or the minor players.