IRS Must Investigate NRA’s Tax-Exempt Status | Opinion

Brad Schneider’s op-ed in Newsweek on why he’s calling for the IRS to investigate the National Rifle Association.
By Brad Schneider, U.S Representative, IL-10

If you can believe it, when the National Rifle Association was founded as a not-for-profit organization almost 150 years ago, the stated goal of its founder was to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.” While it may have adhered to that mission in the past, today’s NRA has strayed far from its founding principles.

The modern NRA advocates for reckless policies that can allow guns to fall into dangerous hands. Its spokespeople verbally attack student survivors of mass shootings. And, according to recent news reports, its executives appear to have improperly directed the donations from its rank-and-file members to line their own pockets.

For a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, such blatant self-dealing would constitute more than just bad press. It would be a violation of the state and federal laws that govern tax-exempt organizations. If the allegations are true, American taxpayers should not be forced to effectively subsidize the efforts of the NRA’s leadership to bilk their members to enrich themselves.

That is why I am calling for the IRS to investigate the NRA’s tax-exempt status.

The alleged pattern of self-dealing, deceptive billing and skirting of transparency reaches the highest levels of the NRA.

One glaring example: The NRA paid more than $40 million in 2017 to its longtime public relations firm Ackerman McQueen with scant documentation on how that money has been spent. There do, however, appear to be many close personal and financial links between Ackerman McQueen and top NRA executives. In addition, leaked internal documents suggest that hundreds of thousands of dollars were funneled from the firm to pay for NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s luxury clothing and lavish travel. LaPierre, already one of the highest-paid nonprofit executives in the nation, has also reportedly secured what amounts to a lifetime contract, assuring he is paid for consulting services and personal appearances after his employment.

Former NRA President Oliver North has also allegedly massively benefited from the NRA’s relationship with Ackerman McQueen. Days after accepting the uncompensated role of board president at the NRA, he reportedly signed a contract with the firm worth roughly $1 million a year.

Despite lavish spending at the leadership level, just one-10th of the NRA’s money is directed toward activities that many members would recognize as nonprofit activity, such as gun safety, training and education, according to The New Yorker.

These examples raise a sea of red flags. The former head of the tax-exempt enterprises division within the IRS, Marc Owens, told The New Yorker that the NRA’s records present “one of the broadest arrays of likely transgressions that I’ve ever seen” and suggested they could lead to the revocation of the NRA’s tax-exempt status.

Fortunately, elected officials are catching on to the NRA’s alleged problematic behavior. Earlier this month, three members of the Senate Committee on Finance—Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Robert Menendez of New Jersey—sent letters to LaPierre, North and Ackerman McQueen to turn over “letters, third-party audits, memos and other materials as they look into allegations of self-dealing and examine the NRA’s nonprofit status,” The Washington Post reported. The New York attorney general’s office has also begun an investigation into the NRA’s tax-exempt status and issued subpoenas.

When Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George came before the Ways and Means Committee, I posed the self-dealing allegations against the NRA to him as hypotheticals. He said the arrangements were “concerning” and “would raise questions,” and he agreed they would warrant further investigation. I also sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig requesting he investigate these allegations and determine whether the NRA’s tax-exempt status has been abused.

Fundamentally, we are a nation of laws, which must be as applicable to powerful organizations such as the NRA as they are to you, me or any other citizen. In the face of this overwhelming evidence, the IRS must fully and fairly investigate the NRA, and if it finds the organization has operated outside the bounds of a nonprofit charitable organization, it should revoke the group’s nonprofit status.

Illinois Environmental Community Legislative Successes

Illinois Environmental Council Advocates

The 2019 Illinois General Assembly legislative session is expected to end today. With the growing strength of our community and a legislature that increasingly prioritizes environmental issues, IEC is proud to announce that the environmental community had one of the most successful sessions ever.

We passed a broad and ambitious agenda, defeated damaging legislation, and secured important appropriations in the budget. This session has proved that elections matter. Our new governor, Gov. Pritzker, made a bold commitment to renewable energy and that momentum to tackle our biggest environmental challenges extended to the new legislature as well, where both chambers voted to position Illinois to begin regulating our carbon emissions for the first time.

This morning, we are still waiting to review any expected budget or capital plans. We’ll send a note about the results as we work to advance budgets that support clean energy, preserve natural resources, and protect our air and water. We hope to avoid reliance on fund sweeps or any cuts to agency staff and are actively fighting penalties to electric vehicles as a proposed revenue source.

Below is a list of our big environmental wins this session:

ENERGY

Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act — SB9 (Bennett- Ammons)
IEC, along with many of our partners, heavily negotiated this major legislation to protect clean water and public health. This bill creates a regulatory framework to ensure polluters, not taxpayers, pay for needed closure and cleanup, guarantees public participation and transparency, and provides Illinois EPA the funds it needs to properly oversee closure and cleanup. SB 9 pass 77-35-1 in the House and 39-9-7 in the Senate.

Dirty Industry Bill–HB1633 (Hoffman/Hastings)
This was an ALEC bill that protected new pollution projects from criticism and enhanced penalties on criminal actions already illegal in Illinois. Sen. Hastings heard the concerns and demonstrated the courage to stand up against the bill, stopping it from advancing. HB1633 passed 77-28-3 in the House but was tabled in the Senate.

Solar and EV Ready Construction — HB2652 (Halpin-Belt)
This legislation will allow expansion of building codes to include solar, electric vehicle and other supplemental codes. HB2652 passed 112-1 in the House and 54-0 in the Senate.

Solar Opportunities for Universities — SB211 (Bennett-Stuart)
This legislation addresses regulatory barriers to university procurement of solar and wind power.  An initiative of SIU, this will increase the length of time that a university can use to pay back wind and solar power purchases. SB211 passed 49-0 in the Senate and 108-8 in the House.

County Wind Development — HB2988 (Williams/Cunningham)
This bill clarifies current law by making it even more explicit that only counties and municipalities have zoning authority over wind farm development. This change will facilitate wind development to facilitate growth, as it has since 2007, under the regulatory oversight of the county and municipal governments in Illinois. HB2988 passed 43-7-1 in the Senate and 95-12-1 in the House.

Resource- Efficient Cannabis — HB1438 (Steans/Cassidy)
IEC worked with legislators to add new Illinois specific, nation-leading standards and administrative framework to this bill that help mitigate some of the negative impacts that would otherwise result from expanding the cannabis industry in Illinois. The inclusion of our proposal makes this the “greenest” cannabis bill in the nation. This bill passed just moments ago! Check out our latest blog post on it here. This bill passed 38-17-2 in the Senate and 66-47 in the House.

Taking Action on Climate Change — HB3481 (Gabel/Ellman)
By removing a provision in existing statute, this bill authorizes Illinois to take action on climate change by regulating greenhouse gases. This vote on this bill demonstrates a pro-climate action majority for the first time in both chambers. It is the first stand alone climate bill to receive a majority roll call and move to the governor. HB3481 passed 66-44-1 in the House and 36-17 in the Senate.

CONSERVATION

Wrongful Tree Cutting — HB3105 (Edly-Allen/Stadelman)
This legislation fairly compensates owners of protected lands who have suffered damages from illegal logging. HB3105 passed 113-0 in the House and 53-0 in the Senate.

Conservation Easements — HB2601 (Morgan/Bush)
Makes changes to the law on conservation easement to encourage greater flexibility in protecting open space and conservation areas. HB2601 passed 56-0-1 in the Senate and 97-0 in the House.

Removing Endangered Species Protections — HB2425 (Chesney)
We were able to stop HB2425/SB1336, bill that jeopardize endangered species by eliminating certain requirements for permits, notice and public hearings. This bill would have left the protection of federal endangered species in the hands of the Trump administration, as they actively rolling back protection of endangered species. HB2425 was held with a vote of 60-47-3 in the House.

SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

Promoting Soil Health — HB2737 (Halpin/Bennett)
The Soil Water and Conservation Districts (SWCDs) are an important resource for farmers in Illinois. This legislation adds soil health practices to the list of resources that SWCDs can provide for farmers. The bill passed the House 112-0 and 59-0 in the Senate.

Enhancing Local Food Opportunities — HB2505 (West/Fowler)
In redefining the definition of “local”, this bill will improve opportunities for the state to purchase local food. This bill passed unanimously out of both chambers. 112-0 in the House and 56-0 in the Senate

Supporting Nutrient Loss Reduction Goals — SR52 (Bennett)
This resolution calls for the state to support the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.

WATER

Microplastics —  SB1392 (Morrison/Batinick)
With the growing threat of plastics in our water and our food sources, IEC introduced legislation that requires a study of the threat of microplastics and opportunities for regulatory and legislative protections. The bill passed 118-0 in the House and 57-0 in the Senate.

Equitable Water Rates — SB1724 (Harris/Ford)
This legislation requires that the University of Illinois-Chicago study the setting of water rates in northeastern Illinois. Subject to appropriation, the study will take into consideration factors when setting rates, challenges for low-income communities and opportunities for greater collaboration and equity. This bill passed the House 108-8 and 49-0 in the Senate.

Creating Water Infrastructure Jobs — SB2146 (Villivalam/Slaughter)
This bill will create funding and resources for water jobs training programs and those from disadvantaged communities that are placed in them. As of writing, this bill has not yet passed the Senate, but is expected to do so today. The bill passed the House 103-11 and will have a concurrence vote in the Senate today.

Dirty Industry Bill–HB1633 (Hoffman/Hastings)
To ensure that state revolving funds for water infrastructure can be used broadly by communities, this bill will set forth a rulemaking by IEPA to clarify the use of SRF for ‘set-aside’ programs, such as consolidation. Passed the House 108-0 and the Senate 56-0.

WASTE

State Action on Waste — HB3068 (Costa-Howard/Ellman)
This bill will require the state to develop a comprehensive plan to address solid waste. This legislation also provides for the establishment of recycling programs at state agencies with specific goals around waste reduction. 104-6 in the House and 54-0 in the Senate.

Bulk Containers —  HB3440 (Guzzardi/Steans)
This legislation will cut down waste by ensuring that retailers may offer the use of personal containers for bulk foods. This clarifies uncertainties surrounding this issue and prevent municipalities from unnecessarily banning the use of personal containers in the future. 91-6 in the House and 54-0 in the Senate.

TOXICS

Ethylene Oxide — SB1852/SB1854 (Durkin/Curran, Mason/Bush)
IEC worked with Senators Curran and Bush, and Representatives Durkin, Mason, and Yingling to craft legislation that strengthens protections against ethylene oxide.  SB1852 regulates sterilization facilities such as Sterigenics and Medline, the two biggest emitters in the state. It provides a pathway to keep bad actors such as Sterigenics closed and lowers the emissions level of Medline to the lowest permitted emissions in the country. SB1854 is a step towards regulating Vantage, a manufacturing company that emits a large level of ethylene oxide, by requiring emissions monitoring, dispersion modeling, and giving the IEPA the ability to reopen and cap their emissions permit. SB1852 passed the House 108-0-1 and the Senate 53-0. SB1854 passed the House 90-17 and the Senate 55-1.

BPA Receipts — HB2076 (Villa/Gillespie)
BPA (bisphenol A) is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and has been found to be a threat to human health. Some retail establishments still use receipt paper that is made with BPA, presenting a risk to both the workers and customers. This bill prohibits the manufacture and distribution of paper with BPA for the purpose of banking and business records. Passed the Senate 51-0 and the House 114-0.

EJ Permit Notice — SB1847 (Munoz/Mah)
IEC supported legislation this session that requires enhanced notice and opportunities for public participation for air permits within environmental justice communities. SB1847 passed the Senate 47-0 and the House 101-11.

Let’s keep up the fight,

Colleen Smith
Legislative Director, IEC

Redistributed from the IEC newsletter, “That’s a wrap! Check out our huge enviro wins this session!” 5/31/19

Whose House? Our House! Day of Action

Indivisible goes on offense on its first day of action in 2019

The North Shore Indivisible 10th District outlines agenda priorities for the First 100 Days of Congress as follows:

The “First 100 Days of Congress” is a period of time during which the new Congress will indicate their agenda priorities for the next two years.

The first major legislative effort in a Democratically-controlled House is expected to be a democracy reform effort (H.R. 1). This legislation is meant to:

  • Strengthen everyone’s right to vote and to have their vote count
  • Stem the tide of big money in politics
  • Root out corruption at all levels of government

Specifically, this package is expected to include:

Voter Empowerment and Access

  • Automatic voter registration
  • Same-day registration
  • Restore the Voting Rights Act
  • Protect against improper purging of voter rolls
  • Require states to upgrade and secure their election systems
  • Restore voting rights to those with past criminal convictions
  • Provide adequate early voting opportunities

Money in Politics

  • Overturn Citizens United – A constitutional amendment is needed to overturn the chaos that Citizens United and related decisions unleashed into our campaign finance system.
  • Amplify small-dollar donations through public financing
  • Encourage small-dollar donations through tax incentives
  • Eliminate “dark money” by requiring disclosure of all political spending (including online ads)
  • Empower the Federal Election Commission to truly enforce campaign finance law
  • Cut off cooperation between candidates and super PACs

Ethics and Corruption

  • Ensure that ethics rules apply to all government officials – demand disclosure of and divestment from the President’s financial interests that pose conflicts of interest.
  • Prohibit bribery and demand full disclosure of information revealing potential and actual conflicts of interest for executive branch and government officials.
  • Write the Office of Congressional Ethics into law and stop Members of Congress from serving on boards.
  • A new code of ethics is needed for the Supreme Court.

Other Key Issues

Other key issues include Net Neutrality and the Dodd-Frank Act (a United States federal law that places regulation of the financial industry in the hands of the government).  Additional asks of our congressman, Representative Brad Schneider, include:

Net Neutrality

Consumer Financial Protection

  • Legislation Strengthening Dodd-Frank
  • Strengthen Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Join/Support Antitrust Caucus

Take Action

For the issues identified above, North Shore Indivisible and its individual members call on Congressman Brad Schneider for the following:
  • Make a public commitment to EACH of the issues identified above
  • Sponsor or Co-Sponsor Legislation
  • Provide a Timetable for Action
  • Communicate to North Shore Indivisible and the public the progress and status of each issue at 90 day intervals or sooner throughout his term.

About

Indivisible:  The Action Network is the progressives’ grassroots response to The Tea Party movement.  It’s “a mission-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to building online power for the progressive movement.”  Indivisible groups are gaining traction throughout the country and recently organized a Whose House? Our House! Day of Action on January 3rd, 2019.

This post has been prepared by Gerri Songer, part of North Shore Indivisible’s delegation in a meeting in the office of Illinois 10th District  Congressman Brad Schneider on January 3, 2019.

Hiring Interns for Bob Morgan for State Representative

Bob Morgan for State Representative

The Bob Morgan for State Representative campaign is hiring fall interns for the final stretch of the campaign! The internship will focus on direct voter contact (canvassing, phone banking, events) but also provides an opportunity to learn more about communications, finance, and operations on a local race. The schedule is completely amenable to the student’s schedule and requires a minimum commitment of 2 days per week. This is an unpaid internship but would be available for credit.

Please encourage those interested students to fill out this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdE1pSljkZGMedAXdMK9kbAAItFaewgcBaWa-QCbEQ1AUaz6A/viewform

Canvassing Works

“Just one in-person conversation had a profound effect 
on a voter’s likelihood to go to the polls, boosting 
turnout by a whopping 20 percent.”

Before I threw my energy into almost a year of knocking on stranger’s door in unfamiliar neighborhoods, I needed to be convinced that canvassing was an effective way to increase voter turnout. As a political neophyte, I was cynical about simply accepting axioms about what worked as inherited fact. So I conducted my own research.

What I discovered was as much startling as it was unsurprising. Unsurprisingly, people respond to people. And face-to-face meetings are the most effective motivators. But astonishingly, these personal meetings, howsoever brief, can drive the outcome.

You want data to prove this? I’ve got it. But I’m not going down that rabbit hole because I’ll lose you in the wonky detail. What I will share is this from the Fund for the Public Interest, “By far the most effective way to turn out voters is with high-quality, face-to-face conversations that urge them to vote. How do we know? Nearly two decades of rigorous randomized experiments have proven it.”

The Grassroots Field Army

In years before, invested constituencies from labor unions, churches & synagogues and other civic organizations could staff canvassing projects. But membership in these community-based groups has flagged. And, with more money than ever in politics, the prevailing view is that voter attention can be purchased with media coverage. So the personal ground game has succumbed to impersonal digital, audio and visual assaults. But it is not as effective.

Raising a field army of grassroots volunteers is the new resource. That’s what we’re doing.

To join our canvassing effort complete the contact form or email canvass@northshoreindivisible.com

Reference source: Fund for the Public Interest

The Winning Canvass Plan

North Shore Indivisible will be knocking on doors, i.e. canvassing, throughout the Illinois 10th Congressional District to get out the vote (GOTV) to re-elect Congressman Brad Schneider and other candidates. Your participation is eagerly sought. To indicate your willingness to canvass, please sign up here or send an email to canvass@northshoreindivisible.com. You will be contacted with more information.

Here’s more you should know:

Getting Out the Vote

Our focus is on increasing total voter turnout for Democratic candidates. We will knock on the doors of homes that are known, from publicly available information, to vote predominantly for Democratic candidates. The only thing we will ask is to be sure to vote. There is no need to debate issues or argue sides. You will talk to sympathetic voters. They just need encouragement to be sure to vote.

Every Vote Matters

Non-presidential elections do not attract the same enthusiasm and are commonly dismissed as “mid-term” elections. Voter turnout tends to drop. Yet in Illinois we will elect a Governor, state senators, state representatives as well as important County positions. Moreover, the 10th Congressional seat has flipped between Republicans and Democrats. Small increases in Democratic voter turnout can determine the outcome.

Strategic Canvassing

Within the 10th Congressional District there are several state races that may be tight. Money from right-wing sources are targeting these races. Within the 10th Congressional District, we will focus on State District 58, 59 and 62 in support of candidates Bob Morgan (Deerfield/Highland Park area), Daniel Didech (Buffalo Grove area) and incumbent Sam Yingling (Grayslake area).

Canvass Schedule

Our canvass schedule is as follows:

  • Tuesday, June 19
  • Sunday, July 8
  • Thursday, July 26
  • Saturday, August 11
  • Tuesday, August 21
  • Saturday, September 8
  • Wednesday, September 26
  • Saturday, October 13
  • Thursday, October 25

Weekdays 5 – 7 PM and Weekends 4 – 6 PM

Canvass Training

Canvass Captains will provide you the tools you need. No experience necessary. We will canvass in pairs. Bring a smile and dress for the weather.

Canvass History

Many of us have been canvassing since last October. We have knocked on hundreds of doors. Now, with less than 140 days until election, we are stepping up the effort. That’s where you come in.

Does Canvassing Work

“Canvassing door-to-door typically raises turnout by 6% according to one study with some results as high as 15% in other studies. Increasing turnout by this magnitude can sway the results of many tight elections.

Will you take this step to take back control of our democracy? This is something you can do.

Vote On Bill Banning Abortion After 20 Weeks Set for Next Week

The Reasons Behind the Senate Vote on Banning Abortion.

The Senate has scheduled a vote on a bill, already passed by the House, that bans abortions after 20 weeks, and the Trump Administration has signaled its support of this bill.   While some websites are raising the alarm, The Hill asserts that the bill has little chance of passing in the Senate with the narrow Republican majority.   According to The Hill, the purpose of scheduling this vote is to get Senators on record with their votes for or against the bill.  Anti-abortion activists are hoping that Democrats up for re-election in battleground states will suffer the consequences of their vote, while Democrats characterize the bill as an extreme assault on a woman’s right to make decisions about her health care.  This bill, titled “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” is based on faulty “science” mis-representing fetal development as outlined by Dr Daniel Grossman on Twitter (@DrDGrossman). When politicians insert themselves into medical decisions best made between doctors and their patients, decisions that should be based on the patient’s individual circumstances and unique needs, unintended consequences and unforeseen harm often follow.

The key to the electoral impact of the bill may be how issues-influenced voting weighs against voting based on economic factors.  As always, who shows up to vote in an election can be critical – in 2017 special elections were sometimes decided by a strong showing of voters who have previously not been active at the voting booth. As The New York Times points out in their editorial post this evening, having Democrats take back control of either house of Congress will guard against future actions to restrict reproductive freedoms. Voting in local elections is important, as are actions supporting progressive voters in red states.  Don’t forget, primaries in Illinois are March 20 and election day is November 6th – cast your vote and make your voice heard!

Pablo Manriquez Highlights January Meet-Up

Roll Call Director of Communications Pablo Manriquez

Good discussions at our January Meet-Up among our group including several new people eager to stop hand wringing and do something. Joining us from DC via skype was Roll Call Director of Communications Pablo Manriquez who fielded our questions about DACA, Trump-Russia col lusion and more.

Pablo has useful insight to help inform us on the issues and left us with a number of resources worth investigating including online news: At the Races, Fox News (yes) “Halftime Report;” and Emily Wilkins at Bloomberg for Education issues, Dean DeChiaro on Immigration and Brian Williams at 11PM on MSNBC.

Yes, Pablo’s image looks a little frightening here. He wasn’t. Good guy. We’ll have him back.

The Good News – ACA Numbers Are Up As the Enrollment Period Begins

Initial Numbers for ACA Enrollment – Over 600,000 Sign Up in the First Four Days!

The Washington Post reports that more than one in five of these are new enrollees.  The increase in numbers is despite the Trump Administration undercutting the process by shortening the enrollment period by half, slashing the TV and radio advertising budget and cutting navigator funding.  State run exchanges are also reporting brisk business as the enrollment period begins  according to CNN Money

However, this trend doesn’t predict overall ACA success as the numbers tend to fall off during the latter part of the enrollment period.  The sickest people who need insurance the most tend to sign up first, but the success of the ACA marketplace also depends on healthier people signing up to balance the risk pool.  It is important for all of us to keep spreading the word about the enrollment period and where to find help with the process (see below).

Additional Information About ACA Enrollment

From Protect Our Care IL Newsletter:

Here are the top 5 things you need to know about Open Enrollment:

  1. Open enrollment is only half as long this year (Nov 1 – Dec 15).
  2. Discounts on health coverage (through tax credits and cost sharing reductions) are STILL available to those who qualify.
  3. It’s important to shop around – the pricing of premiums is very different this year. In Illinois, you can go to HealthCare.gov or GetCoveredIllinois.gov. Eighty percent of people can get a plan for $75 or less and many in Illinois can get a bronze plan for free.
  4. You may qualify for 2018 tax credits even if you didn’t in 2017. If you aren’t eligible for tax credits (check this calculator to make sure), go to GetCoveredIllinois.gov and see if you can find a cheaper plan off marketplace.
  5. Free help is available! If you have questions about signing up or want to talk through your options with a trained professional, you can make an appointment with a trained navigator here or call Get Covered Illinois at 866-311-1119.

Calling your Representatives, A “Pick Up the Phone” How To:

One of the quickest and easiest ways to let your representatives in Washington DC know what you think on a particular issue is to pick up the phone and tell them.

Red Telephone

Seriously? I can just tell them how I want them to vote on stuff?

That’s right. Our representatives and senators (at least in the IL-10th district) want to hear what you have to say. They actually pay people to sit in a chair, pick up the phone, and tally up how many constituents are for or against a particular measure.

But there’s a dirty little secret they don’t want you to know.

Continue reading “Calling your Representatives, A “Pick Up the Phone” How To:”