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Speaking of taxes, right-wing political groups still avoid them


(Jan. 30, 2018) — Washington legislators are in the midst of a short legislative session and there is no shortage of reforms that lawmakers are considering. There is some chatter about perhaps the most crucial reforms: closing the nearly 700 wasteful tax loopholes enjoyed by corporations and special interest groups. While corporate interest groups have been able to finagle hundreds of wasteful tax loopholes, there are other special interest groups who have circumvented our state laws by abusing their not-for-profit status. Elected officials need to examine those groups as well.

Just take a look at the Washington-based Freedom Foundation, they operate as a tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profit, but in reality are a far-right special interest group that is trying to curtail the rights of workers for purely political and partisan reasons.

The 501(c)3 status is intended for charitable organizations that actually help people in need, like Habitat for Humanity. It allows non-profits to pay almost nothing in taxes while donors collect tax benefits for their financial contributions. One of the main 501(c)3 conditions is that the organizations remain non-partisan.

We have uncovered numerous examples of the Freedom Foundation’s top leadership admitting they are working on behalf of Republicans. In one instance, their CEO, Tom McCabe, raised money for his organization in an official capacity at the fundraiser of a Republican State Senator while soliciting funds for other Republican officials.

Most recently, the Freedom Foundation became laser-focused on attempting to destroy organized labor in order to “defund” the political left in the Northwest, a mission that many experts agree falls outside the purview of 501(c)3 organizations.

Unfortunately, this abuse is not contained to Washington state.

The Koch Brothers have established a national network of tax-exempt, state-based organizations to push a right-wing agenda. The State Policy Network (SPN) – of which the Freedom Foundation is a Washington affiliate – was recently exposed for their mission to “defund and defang” unions by spending millions to break up the collective power of working people. They fully understand that organized labor stands in the way of their far-right agenda. It’s a strategy they learned in Wisconsin and Michigan and something they are trying desperately to employ in the Northwest. SPN affiliates masquerade as think tanks, but are nothing more than right-wing mills funded by billionaires and corporate interests.  Even though their pockets are seemingly endless, they are falling short of their mission in the Northwest as workers are rejecting their agenda.

Still, the Freedom Foundation is doing all of this while abusing its 501(c)3 status, paying next to nothing in taxes and allowing its right-wing wealthy benefactors to deduct the contributions made to a blatantly political cause. This is a clear abuse of the law.

Enforcement of our tax and non-profit code must not fall by the wayside as the tax debate heats up. Elected officials must ensure that the companies and organizations that receive tax breaks are held accountable.

Peter Starzynski is the Executive Director of the Northwest Accountability Project, an organization dedicated to educating the public on the issues that enhance the well-being of middle-class families and workers while shining a light on extremism and the moneyed special interests that attempt to bring an agenda of hate and division to Washington and Oregon. 

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