Probe Continues of 60 Tax-Exempt Groups, IRS Says; Barred Political Activity at Issue

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 10, 2005 | Go to article overview

Probe Continues of 60 Tax-Exempt Groups, IRS Says; Barred Political Activity at Issue


Byline: Guy Taylor, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Internal Revenue Service said yesterday that it continues to investigate more than 60 tax-exempt organizations - including about 20 churches - of accusations of engaging in improper political activities concerning the 2004 presidential election.

The IRS first revealed that it was probing the groups last year, and it was not clear yesterday whether disciplinary action has been taken, or will be taken, against any of them.

"Federal law prohibits us from discussing specific cases or even confirming them," said Bruce I. Friedland, a spokesman for the service, who declined to identify any of the groups beyond saying that about a third are churches.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the IRS had warned a prominent liberal church in Los Angeles that it could lose its tax-exempt status because of an anti-war sermon a guest preacher gave on the eve of the 2004 election.

Mr. Friedland refused to comment on the development, which reportedly involved a sermon that did not explicitly urge parishioners of All Saints Episcopal Church to support President Bush or Sen. John Kerry, but was critical of the war in Iraq and Mr. Bush's tax cuts.

Speaking only generally about IRS guidelines, Mr. Friedland said tax-exempt organizations, including charity groups, educational institutions and churches, are "prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office."

The rules are based on a 1954 federal statute that allows such organizations to comment on political issues, but bars them from endorsing or raising money for a political party or specific candidate. …

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