Au Urges Irs To Investigate Religious Group's Fund-raising For Washington State Gubernatorial Candidate

Church-State Watchdog Files Complaint About Political Event Sponsored By Christian Businessmen's Group

The Internal Revenue Service should investigate a Washington state religious group that engaged in fund-raising for a gubernatorial candidate, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The Tacoma, Wash., branch of the Christian Businessmen’s Connection hosted Republican candidate Dino Rossi on May 21 in Fircrest. During the event, Dwight Mason, the group’s president, noted that fund-raising envelopes for Rossi had been left on the tables.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported that Mason prayed for Rossi and then said, “OK, at your table, this is not a fundraiser, though Dino did leave with us a couple envelopes there, and I’m sure he’d appreciate that.”

A spokesperson for Rossi, Jill Strait, later confirmed that the envelopes, used to collect donations, were left on tables. Strait said, “We have envelopes that we bring with us wherever we go.”

Federal tax law bars tax-exempt organizations from intervening in political campaigns. Although Mason originally denied that fund-raising had occurred, he stopped talking to the media once a tape of the event surfaced.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “Non-profit religious organizations are supposed to meet people’s spiritual needs, not shill for candidates.”

Added Lynn, “I urge the IRS to act quickly to show that this type of activity will not be tolerated.”

The IRS has repeatedly stated that it is stepping up enforcement of the laws barring partisan politicking by non-profit groups. In April, Exempt Organizations Director Lois G. Lerner noted that enforcement procedures have been placed in the hands of career IRS employees who are experts in the tax law in this area.

“As in the past, we will continue to use existing procedures, including a committee of career civil servants, to determine which cases to pursue,” Lerner said in a press release.  “We will focus on cases involving allegations of egregious violations.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.