Another anti-gun group gets caught with the proverbial hand in the cookie jar. This time Gabby Giffords has her prints all over it.
The total amount of illegal contributions received was $15,250. That is not a small chunk of change. Giffords’ PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, received three illegal donations it has been discovered. This is not coincidence or a mistake. One could be a mistake and two could be coincidence. Three times is conspiracy to defraud.
Singer, actress and comedian Bette Midler took to Twitter on April 18 to promote Gabby Giffords’ new gun control effort.
“GABBY GIFFORDS SPEAKS, AND SHE IS FURIOUS!!” Midler wrote as she touted a New York Times opinion column authored by the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman who survived a 2011 shooting and has since launched an advocacy group that aims to curb gun violence.
Just weeks later, Midler upped the ante, donating $10,000 to Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, the super PAC arm of Giffords’ group. The gift came from Midler’s private family foundation, according to campaign finance records.
Before the second quarter ended in June, another family foundation — the Rupa and Bharat B. Bhatt Foundation — contributed $5,000 to the group and the New England Congregational Church in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., gave $250.
They were modest contributions considering the group raised $6.6 million in the first half of 2013 — more than any other super PAC. But they were also strictly prohibited by the Internal Revenue Service.
Nonprofits organized under Sec. 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code are restricted from “directly or indirectly” intervening in political campaigns. And private foundations — such as the Midler and Bhatt foundations — are also prohibited from lobbying to influence legislation.
Tax experts told the Center for Public Integrity that foundation donations to Giffords’ super PAC could be “very problematic.”
Nonprofits organized under Sec. 501(c)(3) “cannot spend one penny” on partisan campaign activity, said Cleta Mitchell, an attorney in the Washington, D.C., office of Foley and Lardner LLP.
“You can’t give them money to do things that you can’t do,” she continued.
Political committees, such as super PACs, are “essentially radioactive” for 501(c)(3) nonprofits, added Marcus Owens, a lawyer at D.C.-based Caplin & Drysdale who previously headed the IRS’s exempt organization division.
As for the money. It is of course being refunded.
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