Friday, May 13, 2005

State GOP Hypocrisy on Non-Profit Partisanship

The Indiana Republican Party telephoned the minister of the First Uniterian Church of South Bend earlier this week to advise her that an informational meeting the church intended to conduct on Social Security issues could jeopardize the church's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status because of its "partisan" nature. According to a South Bend Tribune news report, the Rev. Lisa Doeg received the phone call Monday afternoon a few hours before University of Notre Dame economics professor Teresa Ghilarducci was scheduled to speak at her church about President Bush's proposed reforms to Social Security. The caller complained that Ghilarducci was a partisan Democract, and that her "partisan" presentation might violate the church's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. State Representative Luke Messer, who also serves as executive director of the state GOP, confirmed to the South Bend Tribune that a call was placed to the church's minister, but that no threat was intended by the call. According to Messer the caller stated that "if you're a 501(3)(c), you're not supposed to be involved in partisan activities." Messer told the South Bend Tribune that the caller offered to provide "two or three surrogates" who could discuss Social Security to offer the other point of view.

As Advance Indiana previously reported the highly partisan Advance America organization has blatantly abused its tax-exempt status for more than two decades to advance its far right legislative agenda through the use of an extremely sophisticated, high-tech lobbying enterprise. Representative Messer supported Advance America's proposed constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriages and civil unions, and he, like other candidates who support the organization's extremist religious agenda, benefits electorally from the support he receives from Advance America. Representative Messer and the state GOP have never questioned the propriety of Advance America's partisan activities. Unlike Miller, Teresa Ghillarduci has never sought a political office and is one of the state's most recognized scholars on matters of finance. Inviting her to speak at a single informational meeting on Social Security hardly compares to the hundreds of thousands of tax-exempt dollars Advance America spends each year in Indiana to influence legislation. The GOP call to the South Bend church can only be described as an act of intimidation for which Messer and the GOP should be ashamed. If Messer and the state GOP are truly concerned about non-profits engaging in partisan activities, then they should join Advance Indiana's call for a federal investigation of the activities of Advance America and Eric Miller; otherwise, we can only include that Messer and the state GOP are as hypocritical as Eric Miller. I truly hope Messer and the GOP prove me wrong.

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