October 05, 2010
NOM Charitable Organization Violates Tax-Exempt Status by Campaigning for Senate Candidate
Ruth Institute, part of NOM's Marriage Education Fund, ignores laws by supporting Carly Fiorina in California.
Washington – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, and the Courage Campaign today called on the National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, to explain why its tax-exempt charitable organization, the Ruth Institute – a project of NOM’s Marriage Education Fund – is violating federal laws by intervening on behalf of a candidate for elected office.
This past Monday, Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse spoke on behalf of her organization at a campaign stop of the “Vota Tus Valores” bus tour, a NOM-backed independent expenditure in support of California Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina in San Diego. At the campaign event Morse talked about the role of the Ruth Institute, held up the organization’s signage and closed her remarks by saying, “We're very glad to be part of this electoral effort.” (Watch video of Morse speaking at event.)
Morse’s campaign appearance followed a NOM-issued press release titled “National Organization for Marriage and Ruth Institute Join Bus Tour Supporting Carly Fiorina in California.” The release states that “Brian Brown, president of NOM, and Jennifer Roback Morse, president of The Ruth Institute, a project of NOM’s Marriage Education Fund, will both be supporting the bus tour as it makes its way around California.” In addition to supporting Fiorina, the NOM charitable group has also illegally participated in a campaign to elect California judges.
Pursuant to the federal tax code, a charitable organization – which is permitted to receive tax deductible contributions – may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates. Violation of this prohibition can result in stiff penalties against the organization and its officials as well as potential revocation of its tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service. Federal and state election laws also require organizations to disclose their campaign expenditures.
“One has to wonder if the Ruth Institute is nothing more than a sham charitable organization designed to use tax-deductible contributions to help secretly fund NOM’s election activities,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As usual, it’s win at any cost with NOM, which continues to make up the rules, with no regard – and no respect – for federal or state laws.”
“Much as its actions may suggest otherwise, NOM’s radical extremism is not above the law,” said Courage Campaign Chairman and Founder Rick Jacobs. “Instead of secretly funneling charitable resources into political campaigns that attack families, it’s time for NOM to finally come clean---with the public, state elections officials, and the IRS.”
Morse has previously appeared on behalf of the Ruth Institute at events supporting Fiorina. In July, she boasted on the Ruth Institute’s website about appearing at an event announcing a $1 million campaign for Fiorina. Morse also has used the Institute as a front to participate in other illegal electoral activities, including a campaign to elect judges as part of a shadowy group called Better Courts Now. In April, Morse wrote on the Institute’s website that “we hope everyone … will go to Better Courts Now and seriously consider the candidates they have endorsed.”
NOM is fighting campaign finance laws in a number of states, including New York, Washington, California and Maine, where it remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to register with the state as a ballot question committee and refusing to disclose the donors to its campaign to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
The Courage Campaign is a multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to push for progressive change and full equality in California and across America. Its ongoing equality initiatives include "Testimony" (http://www.couragecampaign.org/Testimony), a nationwide public education campaign that's bringing the Prop 8 trial and the stories of affected families into the lives of everyday Americans and the Prop 8 Trial Tracker (http://Prop8TrialTracker.com), a courtroom live-blog, news and commentary site which has generated more than 3 million visits and 60,000 comments to date.