Jack Abramoff has been a very bad boy, according to the LATimes. And he's not the only one: boards of directors of charitable organizations have a fiduciary obligation to ensure that the donations given to their groups are used in an appropriate, charitable fashion.
By using these groups as a political money laundering base of operations, Abramoff abused the integrity of the charitable process. By allowing him to do so without asking all the appropriate questions, the folks running these charities are now in for a world of headaches -- and they ought to be.
Charities are supposed to advance the public interest, which is why they aren't taxed. But Abramoff, by his own admission, used them to evade taxes, enrich himself and bribe public officials, according to a plea agreement he signed with federal prosecutors in January.So many ways to break the law. So little time to watch them all. It's not enough to watch the bribery and the influence peddling, now you have to look sideways at the charities set up to ostensibly care for children and others in need.
"One of the most disturbing elements of this whole sordid story is the blatant misuse of charities in a scheme to peddle political influence," said Mark Everson, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.
Abramoff's use and misuse of nonprofits played a key role in each of the three counts of his indictment: conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion. He admitted evading $1.7 million in income taxes over three years, in part by using nonprofits to conceal personal income from the IRS.
The fast-growing ranks of tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations are tailor-made for operators like Abramoff.
The number of tax-exempt groups in the United States has tripled over the last three decades, but nonprofit groups usually pay no tax, so there is little incentive for the IRS to keep an eye on them.
The lack of oversight is especially meaningful in Washington, where trade associations, public-interest groups and grass-roots lobbying organizations all have tax-exempt status under generous IRS rules designed to foster public debate. Members of Congress are also getting into the act and forming their own charities. (emphasis mine)
This is beyond disgusting. And it needs to be called for what it is: cynical and criminal preying on the public, dressing up the actions of thugs in the guise of decency.
Your Republican government hard at work -- bilking the public and screwing the poor. Coming soon to a charity near you.
Read the entire LATimes article. Prepare to be very angry. But it helps to know what we are fighting against. Know thy enemy. Compassionate conservative, my ass.
(Graphic via Village Voice's now defunct (SIGH) Bushbeat.)
UPDATE: You know, it occurs to me that, according to the article anyway, Greenberg Traurig may have some issues in enabling and being complicit in some of the schemes if they approved Abramoff's actions on behalf of clients. It would be interesting to know how much cooperation the DoJ's Public Corruption unit is getting from them, wouldn't it? The managing partners have to be unnerved by their inclusion in this article.
And a big thanks to Edward Teller for the reminder on all the exceptional work done on this issue by Josh and by Laura Rozen. Both their sites have been on the money (so to speak) on this issue all along. Should have mentioned them earlier, because they have truly done yeoman's work on this. (Oh, and Josh mentions today that Shelly Moore Capito's (R-WV) name has surfaced on some Abramoff e-mails. Interesting...)