The skein of alleged corruption in NC politics is unraveling. First, there is evidence of illegal online registration by NC Democrats in the presidential election. Now, a 501c(3) nonprofit group, specifically forbidden to engage in partisan politics was inconveniently exposed for doing just that. Based in Raleigh, Blueprint North Carolina is an advocacy and policy group which is, as noted on its website, “strictly non-partisan” (wink, wink). In addition, they claim, “Blueprint activities will not be coordinated with any candidate, political party or other partisan entity.”
Perhaps, in the disturbing wake of the first Republican Governor and legislature since 1870, Blueprint was finding it difficult to remain “strictly non-partisan.” Desperate times require desperate measures. A recent Blueprint memo warned members that the email contents were confidential and to be shared only with boards and appropriate staff, “but not the whole world.” Good advice, since it directly conflicts with the group’s stated non-partisan status in its list of talking points to cripple and destroy NC’s Republican leadership. As reported in the Observer, the talking points included:
“Cripple their leaders – McCrory, Tillis, Berger, etc.”
“Eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern”
“Pressure McCrory at every public event”
“Slam him when he contradicts his promises.”
This may not be the most sterling example of non-partisan goals. Of course, it could be I am just misinterpreting what is meant by “Cripple”, “Eviscerate”, and “Slam” the Republicans.
In 1954, Congress passed a law that no 501c(3) group could engage in partisan politics or it would lose its tax exempt status. This law has been applied to Christian groups and churches who urge constituents not to vote for certain candidates based on what they deem anti-biblical policies. Will the law be equally applied to this liberal group that seems to have stepped into partisan politicking?
The Charlotte Observer reported that the spokesman for Blueprint defended its actions saying as long as the nonprofit was not trying to influence an election, no rules were broken. Once the candidate is elected and in office, the rules no longer apply, he claimed. The IRS might not agree.
The IRS code for 501 c(3) behavior governing legislative activity states:
“A public charity is not permitted to engage in substantial legislative activity (commonly referred to as lobbying) . An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for purposes of proposing, supporting or opposing legislation, or advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.”
Did this occur in the case of Blueprint’s memo? Gruesome images provoked by the memo aside, were the IRS rules governing legislative action by tax exempt non-profit groups broken by Blueprint North Carolina? According to the Observer article, House Minority Leader Larry Hall(D), in response to McCrory’s State of the Union address, quoted verbatim one of the memo’s talking points regarding charter schools. Coincidence? Perhaps. Or perhaps the memo from the “Nonpartisan” group Blueprint landed on his desk, having lost its way in all that non-partisan eviscerating and crippling.
An update on Saturday in the Charlotte Observer reports that the executive Director of Blueprint claims to have misunderstood the reporter’s initial questions about the document. He now denies Blueprint wrote the memo. Thursday he was quoted as saying the document was mailed by Blueprint to supporters. Friday, he claimed the document was appended by someone who wanted to damage Blueprint’s reputation. He doesn’t know who drafted it, or how it was appended. He worries that the controversy has been caused by someone who has an agenda to deceive people. So do I.
By: Vicky Kaseorg
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