Influential Secret Societies in violation of law Mar 2, 2005 4:03:37 GMT -5
Post by Moses on Mar 2, 2005 4:03:37 GMT -5
By Sarah Posner, Gadflyer
Posted on March 1, 2005, Printed on March 2, 2005
....Most Americans – even many self-professed political junkies – probably have never heard of CNP or would confuse it with countless other groups with similarly unremarkable names (including the Center for National Policy, a liberal group). But conservative activists would know what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has referred to as "the heart of a great conservative movement that helped to make America strong and prosperous in the 20th century – and is now helping to ensure she remains free and secure in the 21st century," or what Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence has called "the most influential gathering of conservatives in America." But because CNP has been so successful at maintaining its secrecy – flouting the law for more than two decades – it has managed to obscure the depth of its reach in conservative political organizations, political fundraising, the conservative media, and even the Bush administration itself.
Who Is Behind CNP?
While the law does not require a tax-exempt organization to disclose the names of its members (in order to protect their ability to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of association privately, if they choose), it does require disclosure of the officers and directors of these organizations, and this information is available to anyone with access to the internet. And some CNP members, often in the context of bolstering their conservative credentials, have proudly revealed their CNP membership, even though CNP's policy is to keep membership a secret.
CNP was founded in 1981 by Tim LaHaye, the right-wing, evangelical political motivator and author of the Left Behind serial, which chronicles a fictional Armageddon and second coming (in which the non-believers are left behind while believers are carried off in a rapturous moment without their clothes. It gives an eerie ring to the No Child Left Behind Act). LaHaye's empire includes his fingerprints on a number of evangelically-oriented, right-wing political action groups, his wife Beverly's Concerned Women for America, along with the twelve Left Behind novels, which, according to the author's own web site, have sold 55 million copies worldwide since their introduction in 1995. The original directors, as listed with CNP's articles of incorporation filed with the Texas Secretary of State in 1981 were, along with LaHaye, Howard Phillips, a long-time conservative activist with plenty of conservative groups under his wing, and Bob J. Perry, a Texas businessman who has long donated vast amounts of money to conservative causes, including the tort reform effort in Texas. Last year, Perry gave over $8 million to conservative 527 groups, including $4.5 million to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and $3 million to the Progress for America Voter Fund, which spent over $35 million running pro-Bush and anti-Kerry ads during the campaign and is now backing Bush's Social Security privatization.
Today, CNP's board and roster of known members is a who's who of the radical right, and a sampling includes former Reagan cabinet member Donald Hodel, also president of James Dobson's Focus on the Family; Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner, who has served on CNP's board, as have Grover Norquist, president of the anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform and Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation; Holly Coors; T. Kenneth Cribb, president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute; and Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Council, which provides a media network through which it disseminates radical conservative ideology and propaganda.....
CNP's Tax Exemption: A History of Broken Promises
The benefits of tax-exempt status are considerable to both an organization's supporters and the organization itself: contributions are deductible from an individual's taxable income, and the organization pays no federal income tax. In order to maintain tax-exempt status, these organizations must make educational materials available, by providing instruction or training by way of discussion groups, forums, panels or lectures that are open to the public. The instruction may be made through media such as radio, television or the internet.
The IRS, which had granted CNP permission to operate as a tax-exempt educational organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code in 1981, revoked CNP's tax exemption in early 1992. CNP then sued the IRS in the United States Tax Court to gain reinstatement of its tax-exempt status. Shortly before the 1992 presidential election, the IRS settled the case with CNP and gave it back its tax shelter. Since that time, however, CNP has changed nothing about its operations. But the IRS has continued to give it a free ride.
CNP operated since its inception – and continues to operate today – in direct contravention of these legal requirements. CNP's membership is by invitation only. Unlike most other tax-exempt educational organizations, an ordinary person cannot just write a check and join, attend a forum, or purchase a publication. Its meetings – which consist of speeches, panel discussions, workshops and meals – are open only to members and special invited guests. CNP prohibits attendees from discussing the content of meetings publicly. The media are prohibited from attending. CNP does not disseminate any written materials to non-members. In other words, you won't see one of its meetings televised, and you can't order a book, journal or pamphlet from CNP. The IRS cited all these reasons when it revoked CNP's tax-exempt status in 1992.
CNP is not merely excluding outsiders from neighborhood bridge games. The prominence and power of its members – and their political clout within the Bush administration – require, more urgently, the openness of its activities. But CNP has laughed in the face of the IRS and the American public's right to know for more than 20 years, a period during which the radical right has aimed – and largely succeeded – in hijacking the Republican Party.
When CNP first applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status, it promised that it would provide educational opportunities for its members and "issue publications." But CNP artfully phrased the language regarding membership qualifications; instead of saying, as is the case, that membership was by invitation only for committed conservatives, CNP told the IRS that "[m]embers must be elected by the Executive Committee. There are no fixed qualifications."
During the application process, the IRS specifically pressed CNP for evidence it would educate the public. In response, CNP produced a copy of Foreign Affairs, the quarterly publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, on which CNP claimed to model itself. (The Council on Foreign Relations, also a tax-exempt educational organization, operates transparently and produces many educational items for the use of the general public. And although CNP claimed to model itself on the Council on Foreign Relations, at its founding CNP considered itself a conservative antidote to what it decried as the "liberalism" of the Council on Foreign Relations.) CNP told the IRS that Foreign Affairs is "an example of the type of publication we are likely to issue forth within the next year or so. Most publications will probably go only to members. However a quarterly scholarly journal would be widely distributed to libraries and the general public." CNP has never produced such a quarterly scholarly journal.
In fact, the absence of the quarterly journal, or any other materials for the use of the general public, was the main argument the IRS made in revoking CNP's tax-exempt status eleven years later, in January 1992. The IRS focused on the fact that CNP's primary activity was hosting meetings for its members, who could join only if invited by the Executive Committee, at luxury resorts, where they (and in some cases their families) ate gourmet meals and had access to all the recreational amenities the resorts had to offer. And because CNP's principal activity was organizing these membership meetings, and not presenting discussion groups, forums, panels, lectures or other programs that the public could attend or view through television, print or other media, the IRS determined that CNP was serving a private, not a public, interest and was not entitled to tax exempt status.
(rest at link)