Press

PRESS
July 26, 2006

CREW Files IRS Complaint Against Anti-Choice, Abstinence-Only Orgs

Washington, D.C. - Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today filed an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) complaint against the Alpha Center and the National Abstinence Clearinghouse (NAC), two Sioux Falls, South Dakota conservative, non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations led by President Leslie Unruh. The complaint asks the IRS to investigate activities by the groups which violate federal tax law and revoke the groups’ tax-exempt status.

The complaint alleges that the organizations violated federal law by failing to report their lobbying activities. Federal tax law limits a public charity’s lobbying activity such that “no substantial part” of its activities may be for attempting, to influence legislation.

Both NAC and Alpha Center claimed on their 990 tax forms that they engaged in no lobbying activities. Yet, despite these assertions, Ms. Unruh, acting in her official capacity, has repeatedly been quoted in newspaper reports as lobbying legislators to fund abstinence education programs and to ban abortion. For example Ms. Unruh was featured in a story in the Star Tribune:

Leslee Unruh, president and founder of Alpha Center, a Sioux Falls counseling center for women who have had abortions, lobbied for passage of the ban. She said Tuesday she fears that [Governor] Rounds' decision to send it back to the Legislature for more work could backfire and lead to its defeat. "It's an incredible, heart-wrenching disappointment,” she said. “We'll be back there to see that it gets through, and I hope the governor helps us with that. But if the governor wanted to do something with that language, he should have said something early on.

Many more examples of Ms. Unruh’s lobbying activity on behalf of NAC and Alpha Center are provided in the CREW complaint.

In addition, Alpha Center violated federal tax law by openly endorsing a candidate for school board, John Stratman, an NAC and Alpha Center board member. One week prior to the election, the Argus Leader reported that Alpha Center sent out an electronic newsletter to its supporters, openly endorsing Mr. Stratman’s candidacy: “His election to the school board would ensure a strong voice for the safety and well-being of our children.” In another Argus Leader story Ms. Unruh stated, “Obviously, we support John. We know him probably better than most.”

“NAC and Alpha Center have a clear pattern of flagrantly flouting the laws that govern charitable organizations,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today. “The IRS should immediately investigate these organizations and revoke their tax-exempt status. Considering their egregious conduct, neither group is entitled to the tax benefits they presently enjoy.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Stephen Santulli at 202.408.5565 or ssantulli@citizensforethics.org.

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