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Home | News

May 10, 2000


Perhaps they need a background check on their tax knowledge


By J.R. Labbe
Knight Ridder Newspapers
(KRT)

To those moms planning to march on Washington this Mother's Day in support of gun control, I quote a cliche used by one of their heroines, Oprah Winfrey: “You go, girls.”

It would be hypocritical to say otherwise. It is the right of every American to peaceably assemble with those of like minds and to freely speak about issues important to them. The First Amendment guarantees it.

That same fragment of constitutional genius on the part of the Founding Fathers guarantees the right of the Second Amendment Sisters to hold a counter protest, the Armed Informed Mothers March, on the same day.

So the Million Mom Marchers will gather on Capitol Hill, providing TV crews with tableaus of teary-eyed women with babes in arms and toddlers in strollers, shouting for more federal gun laws. If you can't make it on May 14 because you're spending the day with your family — what a concept — don't fret. One of the official MMM endorsers will make sure that the nightly news snags an image of an appropriately placed message.

“Whitehouseprotests.Com, a full-service, Web-based corporation that enables you, from the comfort of your home or office, to organize a demonstration using a custom-designed, full-size banner to be displayed by our staff directly on the sidewalk in front of the White House or Capitol buildings in Washington, D.C.”

How uniquely American. Protest by proxy.

But while the dot-com demonstrators attempt to convince lawmakers (who won't be anywhere near Capitol Hill on a weekend) that they echo the majority voice of American motherhood, keep this in mind:

The Million Mom March is violating federal law.

At least that's the view from here. Hardly a soul can question the organization's political nature. Just check out its Web site, with the “Time Out Chair,” which threatens to unseat politicians who don't vote the way MMM wants.

“Come Mothers' Day, we mothers will stand together on the mall of Capitol Hill to remind your PRO-GUN House that on Election Day, the voters will stand by our children,” writes Rene King of Kentucky, in a letter posted by MMM castigating House Majority Whip Tom DeLay.

Or how about the Mom's Apple Pie Awards, serving up sugary kisses to “Rep. Joe Hoeffel, D-Pa., who plans to co-sponsor a bill next year, along with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., that would require the licensing of handgun owners and the registration of handguns. It would also require gun purchasers to undergo background checks, take a gun safety course, and wait three days before acquiring a gun. ... It will be up to us to convince Congress to pass it.”

Or event organizer Donna Dees-Thomases' thank-you letter: “With thousands of mothers and others on the National Mall, we will put Congress on notice that common-sense gun policy — specifically licensing and registration — is the will of the people.”

MMM has every right to champion politicians who support its cause and torment those who don't. It can even lobby Congress for more gun control. But not as a nonprofit organization that receives preferential tax-exempt status.

Again, MMM's Web site: “We have 501-c(3) status as a nonprofit tax entity .... Contributions are tax deductible.”

How can this be, you ask, when federal tax law expressly prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits from engaging in political activity?

According to the Internal Revenue Service's frequently asked-questions list: “501(c)(3) organizations may not engage in political activity, including endorsing candidates, but other organizations, such as 501(c)(4) organizations, may engage in political activity so long as that is not their primary activity.”

Dees-Thomases (who, for you trivia buffs, is the sister-in-law of the Clintons' close friend Susan Thomases) has a decision to make: Give up the tax-exempt status, or stop the politicking.

Imagine the howl that would resound across the land if the NRA asked for tax-exempt status. Jeepers, poor ol' Chuck Heston would never hear the end of it. The National Rifle Association's information clearly states that contributions are not deductible for federal tax purposes.

Nor should they be.

Yet money donated to MMM by individuals and corporate sponsors like Guess, StrideRite, McClelland Press, Viacom, iVillage.com and New Frontier Clothing is a tax write-off.

MMM's conundrum would be amusing if the hypocrisy it reflects weren't so disturbing — an organization crying for more federal laws while violating one of them.

But then, wasn't it tax laws that brought down Al Capone?

ABOUT THE WRITER
Jill “J.R.” Labbe is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may write to her at 400 W. 7th Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, or via e-mail at jrlabbe(at)star-telegram.com.

(c) 2000, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Visit the Star-Telegram on the World Wide Web: www.star-telegram.com.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


All content copyright 1995-2000, AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News and texnews.com

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