May 10, 2000
Perhaps they need a background check on their tax knowledge
By J.R. Labbe
Knight Ridder Newspapers
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
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
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