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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 1, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 14
Investigate Freedom Foundation, lawmakers ask Attorney General

Right-wing group may be violating tax codes
Section One
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Investigate Freedom Foundation, lawmakers ask Attorney General

Right-wing group may be violating tax codes

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Thirty Washington state legislators have asked Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the state Public Disclosure Commission, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson to investigate the right-wing group Freedom Foundation.

In their letter, dated March 24, the lawmakers charge that Freedom Foundation is violating tax codes governing nonprofits by intervening in political campaigns on behalf of Republican candidates.

'It appears the Freedom Foundation has grown increasingly partisan and has directly intervened in political campaigns in violation of state rules,' the legislators' letter says.

They go on to ask state officials to investigate whether Freedom Foundation should be disqualified from its tax-exempt status, whether its political activities constitute in-kind contributions to political candidates, and whether the organization is violating state rules governing nonprofits.

Among the signers are openly Gay legislators Sen. Marko Liias and Rep. Jim Moeller - now a candidate for lieutenant governor - and Lesbian Reps. Laurie Jinkins and Joan McBride.

Sen. Pramila Jayapal (a 7th District Congressional candidate) also signed the letter. Conspicuously absent are one of her opponents, Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, and Walkinshaw's 43rd District colleagues Sen. Jamie Pedersen and Speaker Frank Chopp.

In their letter, the lawmakers refer to 'a recent consumer complaint filed with the Attorney General's office (dated 2/16/16) by firefighters, teachers, LGBT and women's health advocates' that charged the Freedom Foundation with violating state rules governing nonprofits.

Pride At Work, an LGBT labor organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO, was one of the groups making that complaint. Other organizations were the Northwest Accountability Project, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, Progressive Majority Washington, the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters, Teamsters Local 117, the American Federation of Teachers Washington, and the Washington State Labor Council.

According to the Northwest Accountability Project, they have evidence that Freedom Foundation's leadership and staff define their mission as defunding labor unions in order to advance Republicans and conservative candidates, a clear violation of IRS and state rules for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organizations.

'The Freedom Foundation is blatantly ignoring the state and federal rules that prohibit tax-exempt organizations from engaging in partisan political activity - and as a result, they're getting tax breaks while taxpayers are footing the bill for their conservative attacks,' said Andrew Biviano, founding board member of the Northwest Accountability Project.

'It's outrageous that the Freedom Foundation is engaging in partisan attacks on the middle class, the environment, and the values that we hold here in the Pacific Northwest, while hiding behind a bogus 501(c)(3) tax exemption.'

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson responded to the February complaint, saying, 'I cannot discuss particular investigations this office might be pursuing or even whether we are considering an investigation on any given issue.'

He also encouraged the groups to send a complaint to the State Department of Revenue asking that agency to examine the Freedom Foundation's records and determine the group's tax liability.

Similar complaints against the Freedom Foundation have been filed by groups in Oregon.

The Freedom Foundation - formerly known as the Evergreen Freedom Foundation - has filed at least two suits challenging the right of unions to collect fees from nonmembers who are covered by the union's collective bargaining agreements.

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