The Human Rights Campaign and the Courage Campaign, a 700,000-member online activist network, announced they are filing a formal complaint with the Internal Revenue Service asking it to immediately investigate the Ruth Institute, part of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) Education Fund. The complaint, found here, requests the IRS revoke the Ruth Institute’s tax-exempt status and seek an injunction to prevent future violations by either the Ruth Institute or the NOM Education Fund.
The complaint makes clear the Ruth Institute “has repeatedly and flagrantly violated the political campaign activity prohibition of section 501(c) (3) by intervening and participating in multiple candidate campaigns. In the past year Ruth Institute resources have illegally been used to advocate for a U.S. Senate candidate as well as local and statewide judicial candidates.” HRC and the Courage Campaign cite the repeated involvement of the Ruth Institute in Carly Fiorina’s Senate race and in judicial elections in California and Iowa as clear violations of federal law.
“The evidence that the Ruth Institute and the NOM Education Fund repeatedly stepped over the line into illegal activity is indisputable,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Even fringe groups like NOM, its associates, and its affiliate groups must abide by federal law. Is the Ruth Institute nothing more than a front and funnel for NOM’s political activities? We trust the IRS can unveil the truth.”
“Time and again, NOM has shown itself as a radical extremist group bent on attacking families and undermining election laws,” said Courage Campaign Chairman and Founder Rick Jacobs. “By openly flouting IRS regulations governing charities, NOM is effectively forcing taxpayers to subsidize its political activities. This is not just the height of arrogance, it’s against the law.”
Pursuant to the federal tax code, as a charitable organization, the Ruth Institute may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates. Violation of this prohibition can result in stiff penalties against the organization and its officials as well as potential revocation of its tax exempt status by IRS.
The Ruth Institute and Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, in her capacity as president of The Ruth Institute, have participated in activities advocating the election of Carly Fiorina to the United States Senate in coordination with NOM, which has already spent close to 0,000 on the race through multiple independent expenditures. Evidence of the Ruth’s Institute’s participation in these activities includes:
- A NOM-issued press release titled “National Organization for Marriage and Ruth Institute Join Bus Tour Supporting Carly Fiorina in California.” The September 28th release stated that “Brian Brown, president of NOM, and Jennifer Roback Morse, president of The Ruth Institute, a project of NOM’s Marriage Education Fund, will both be supporting the “Vota Tus Valores” bus tour as it makes its way around California” and that Morse would appear at a San Diego campaign event on October 4. (NOM has since removed their press release from its web site. It can be found here.)
- Videotape of the October 4th appearance by Morse at the campaign event for Fiorina. Speaking in front of a bus emblazoned with “Vota Fiorina,” Morse said, “We’re the Ruth Institute … if you go and look at ruthinstitute.org, you’ll find out all about us… We’re here, and we’re here to serve, we’re here to serve the whole body of Christ… That’s what we’re here for, and we’re very proud to be part of this electoral effort (4:50 into the videotape).”
- A Ruth Institute podcast containing Morse’s speech on behalf of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Values, described on the Ruth Institute website as “an independent expenditure group supporting Carly Fiorina’s bid for California Senator.” (This, too, has been scrubbed. It can be found here.)
- Ruth Institute website content promoting Fiorina’s candidacy and Morse’s involvement in the campaign effort.
The Ruth Institute has also intervened in campaigns to elect San Diego County judges as part of a candidate slate supported by an organization called Better Courts Now. Better Courts Now endorsed a slate of four judicial candidates in the California primary election on June 8, 2010. The evidence includes Ruth Institute website content and video endorsing Better Courts Now and encouraging readers to support its candidate slate.
In Iowa, three of the justices of the state Supreme Court face a retention election this November. The Ruth Institute has advocated their recall, which is political intervention in violation of Section 501(c)(3). The Ruth Institute website made the case for “Why the Iowa Judges Have to Go” two days after NOM reported spending 5,000 on independent expenditure television ads calling for the rejection of the justices.
Today’s complaint follows a September 20th Washington Independent story that suggested NOM had funneled millions more in tax-exempt donations from charitable groups into other political campaigns.
NOM is fighting campaign finance laws in a number of states, including New York, Washington, California and Maine, where it remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to register with the state as a ballot question committee and refusing to disclose the donors to its campaign to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009.