Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Miller Continues to Flaunt Non-Profit Status

Eric Miller returned this week to the campaign trail, taking his campaign of hate and bigotry which he calls Advance America, to the land of RVs in search of more tax-exempt, tax-deductible dollars to re-fuel his efforts. Speaking at a crowded luncheon in the Matterhorn Restaurant in Elkhart, Indiana, The Truth reported that "[c]onservative Miller discusse[d] public policy matters" and "addresse[d] issues of gay rights . . . and church regulations". Salivating over twin victories at the State House and the Indianapolis City-County Council over the issues of gay marriage and civil rights, Miller cautioned the group of followers that "[s]uccess in the latest round of legislation shouldn't be a signal for conservatives to ease up on issues they consider critical to the state's moral and economic well-being," Trevor Wendzonka reported in The Truth. In what Advance Indiana believes is the first time a mainstream reporter has pondered the brazen political activity of the supposed nonpartisan Advance America, Wendzonka astutely observed, "While Miller's Advance America is a tax-exempt, nonpartisan group, the 2004 Republican candidate for governor extolled the virtues of having a GOP majority in the General Assembly this year."

As Advance Indiana has reported in depth, Advance America has blatantly violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the Internal Revenue Code regulations governing non-profit organizations by engaging in impermissible political activities. Advance America is organized as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt "education"organization, meaning contributions to the organization are tax-deductible and income received in the form of contributions and grants by the organization is tax-exempt. As reported here, Advance America performs no exempt educational activities; rather, it devotes all of its energies to lobbying state and local governments on various legislative agenda items advanced by Christian fundamentalists, and to developing voter guides it mails in mass prior to elections to influence political campaigns. Advance Indiana has also reported in depth at how Miller, the group's founder, has engaged in blatant self-dealing in order to enrich himself based upon an analysis of the tax returns the organization filed with the IRS. Miller has in the past received six-figure salaries as the group's executive director and pulled down six-figure retainer fees for his law firm, all while he was mounting his personal campaign for governor. Making matters worse, Miller has commingled the operations of his law firm and the tax-exempt organization in prime office space only one block from the State House, which is rented by the organization under something less than an arm's length arrangement. In some years, Miller has personally pocketed nearly one-third of the organization's operating budget.

As further evidence of Advance Indiana's previous reporting on the purely political nature of Advance America, The Truth reported that Miller told the group that [p]lenty of work remains on issues such as a constitutional amendment defining marriage." The Truth reported that Miller warned the group, "Our opposition is raising millions of dollars and building a grassroots network" for next year's midterm elections. In a blatant political move, the story reported that Miller told the crowd that "'having the right leadership' is necessary for churches to continue to be exempt from government regulation and taxation, Christian schools shouldn't have internal operations reviewed . . .[c]hurch suppers shouldn't be watched by food inspectors . . . and [i]ssues dealing with benefits for homosexuals must be confronted."

Miller boasted to the group about the organization's successful effort in defeating Indianapolis' Proposal 68, which would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of one's sexual orientation or identity. According to the story, Miller said, "This ordinance would have made these people a protected class of individuals, and we don't believe that should happen." In an effort to deceive the gathered crowd about the impact of Proposal 68, Miller falsely asserted that Proposal 68 "would have been costly for businesses in terms of benefit coverage for employees' partners". Proposal 68 does not require employers to offer same sex benefits; it only applies to matters of hiring, firing and promotion with respect to employment. Indiana does not currently, nor has it ever legally recognized same sex marriage or civil unions. As such, businesses are not legally required to recognize the relationship between same sex couples, although several major businesses in Indiana and elsewhere voluntarily provide similar benefits to same sex couples as they offer to opposite sex couples.

Of course, Miller couldn't leave out the argument that gay civil rights and gay marriages are "damaging to the traditional family structure." Miller dissolved his first marriage many years ago and lived much of his adult life as a single man. Miller re-married before launching his unsuccessful campaign for Governor in 2004. Neither of Miller's marriages has produced any children. Miller did not explain to the group how gay civil rights and gay marriages had prevented him from having a "traditional family structure."

Just like former KKK Grand Wizard D.C. Stephenson, who controlled Indiana government in the 1920s, Miller has his reliable disciples in the Indiana General Assembly who he can count on to advance his agenda of hate and bigotry. The Truth reported that seven loyal disciples were on hand to pay their respects to the Grand Wizard of Christian moral righteousness. The lawmakers attending the luncheon, all Republican, included Senators Marvin Riegsecker, Joe Zakas and Vic Heinhold, as well as Representatives Jackie Walorski, Bill Friend, Tim Neese and Marlin Stutzman. This is quite typical of Advance America events. The tone of the discussions is distinctly partisan, and only representatives of the conservative wing of the Republican Party are invited to participate. It also represents impermissible political activity by a non-profit organization.

The Truth's Trevor Wendzonka should be applauded for his insightful reporting on Eric Miller's political campaigning in Elkhart this week. I hope that Mr. Wendzonka and other mainstream reporters begin taking a harder look at some of the legal issues Advance Indiana has raised about the political activities of Miller and Advance America, and renew my urge for an investigation of the organization by the Internal Revenue Service. The evidence is clear that Advance America's tax-exempt status should be revoked, and its founder, Miller should be subject to the maximum penalties under the law for his blatant misuse of a tax-subsidized organization.


Jerame Davis said...

You couldn't be more correct about Miller's blatant flaunting of the law when it comes to his 501c3 status.

When Miller held his Rally for Bigotry at the Statehouse on March 8th, he was utterly partisan in his remarks and as usual had no Democrats supporting him or invited to speak. He spouted his rhetoric about the virtues of Republican leadership and denigrated the Democratic party as well.

It wasn't until I and my cohorts who disrupted that event started catcalling about partisanship and his tax-exempt status that Miller ever mentioned being a non-partisan organization.

The idea that anyone could believe Advance America is deserving of tax-exempt status is simply ludicrous. It seems more likely that he's getting a blind-eye turned his way.

Will anyone step forward and investigate this organization? Will this blatantly self-enriching partisan hack be allowed to continue bilking cash from the poor souls he has scared to death with is lies and deceit?

Let us hope.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the 990 isn't it true that Advance America gives over a third of its annual expenditures to Miller or his law firm. I think it would be interesting for his donors to know this.

Anonymous said...

I was there on Tuesday. I was there on March 8. Calling Miller names and distorting facts does not change anything. I'll meet you at the polls in 2008. You're the minority.

carlos_881672 said...

any guy who opposes same-sex marriges is not my choice of a canidate. im not going to let him make my choice if i want to be happy for some tax or some if gays are bad people. Im willing to fight against homophobia tim neese, not support it.I mean its cool if you are trying to get elected but plz dont take add gay marriges and use it as a wepond to get more numbers to your vote. Not everyone is as gay as you think, alot of ppl dont even know that st8 acting ppl are actually gay,NOTHING IS THAT PINK AND RAINBOWISH...