Friday, April 06, 2007

Miller's Self-Dealing At Advance America Escalates


An analysis of the latest tax return available for Advance America uncovers more self-dealing by the founder of the "nonprofit" to the tune of nearly $250,000. The organization's 2005 Form 990 tax return reveals Eric Miller received a compensation package worth $106,546, while the organization paid another $134,800 to Miller's law firm, Miller Waters Martin & Hall, for legal services. The quarter-million dollars paid directly to Miller or his law firm represented more than one-third of the nonprofit's expenditures for the year. But the self-dealing doesn't end there.

Miller's law firm continues to share office space with Advance America. According to the nonprofit's tax returns, Miller's law firm paid rent for the space between January 1, 2005 and March 31, 2005 only. Advance America leased the space the remaining 9 months of the year at a cost of nearly $58,000. In an unusual arrangement, the tax return discloses that the organization's employee services are sometimes shared with Miller's law firm. We are assured the firm reimburses the organization for those expenses. The return also assures us the organization is reimbursed for expenses the law firm incurs during the 9 months of the year it is paying the rent. However, the return did not denote any sums the organization derived from reimbursed expenses during the year.

Miller and his law firm may benefit further at the expense of the organization. Advance America, for example, shelled out nearly $10,000 in 2005 for employee parking, even though the staff size for the organization is very small. This raises an issue of whether Advance America is paying the parking expenses of the employees of Miller's law firm. The organization also paid out over $6,000 in automobile expenses. The tax returns show that the organization paid another $44,000 in undisclosed consulting fees.

As AI has detailed the activities of Advance America in the past, it has two primary purposes. It lobbies the Indiana legislature on a variety of social issues and some tax issues. As the organization describes it: "Matters relating to issues which affect all rights guaranteed by the Constitution to families, individuals, churches, and any of their related matters." It also compiles legislative voting records and voter guides based upon the narrow issues upon which the group focuses and distributes these to hundreds of thousands of Indiana voters every two years in an effort to influence the outcome of the election. I challenge anyone to come forward with any legitimate nonprofit purpose Advance America fulfills, which begs the question of why isn't anyone doing anything about this blatant abuse of our nonprofit tax laws.

While Miller will send out e-mail alerts soliciting tax-deductible contributions from his supporters throughout each legislative session, advertising the fact his organization will spend over $160,000 in lobbying expenditures, Advance America reports but a small fraction of that figure as lobbying expenses. In 2005, the group claimed lobbying expenditures of just $33,170, including $16,742 in grassroots lobbying expenses and $16,427 in direct lobbying expenses. According to reports Advance America filed with the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission in 2005, it expended only $28,000 for lobbying.

State legislative efforts which would force public advocacy groups like Advance America to report all of its lobbying expenditures, including those he attributes to grassroots lobbying, have been fiercely opposed by Miller and his organization. This is how Miller mischaracterized the legislation in a recent legislative update to his supporters:

Bills would make it against the law for anyone including a church or private citizen to spend $500 to “inform the general public” about an issue or “urge the general public to take any action” concerning a legislative issue unless they register with the state as a lobbyist! This means a pastor and church would be breaking the law if they spoke out on abortion, homosexuality, gambling, or some other Biblical issue in the church or in the community; or urged people to contact their Representative or Senator and someone accused them of spending over $500. This could include staff time, cost of any publication or information distributed in the church. The Legislature should not be passing bills that interfere with the right of a pastor and church to speak out on Biblical issues; or the right of an individual to speak out publicly on an issue important to them, or to urge individuals to contact their legislators.
Miller craftily twisted the bill's true target--Advance America--and made it appear that it would unduly burden churches. Churches are granted tax-exempt status as religious organizations. While they can lobby the legislature, like other nonprofit organizations, they must do so within federal IRS guidelines. If churches and other nonprofit organizations are diverting tax-exempt contributions to lobby our legislature rather than use them for religious purposes, the public has a right to know how much money is being spent to influence government decision-makers. In Advance America's case, it is clear the organization is spending far more of its annual revenues on lobbying than what either its tax returns or lobbying reports reveal. Any effort to report more of those expenditures could jeopardize Advance America's tax-exempt status, as well it should. Miller's opposition to the legislation is nothing more than an effort to hide the extent of his public influence peddling for his favorite social causes.
So who contributes to Advance America? That's a good question. IRS rules do not require nonprofit organizations like Miller's to identify their contributors. The tax return tells us that a single contributor kicked in nearly 20% of the organization's total revenues for 2005 with a $137,000 contribution. It gathered more than 60% of its revenues from a couple of dozen contributors. One gave $40,000, another contributed $33,000 and at least 13 contributors donated $5,000. A look at the contributors to Miller's unsuccessful 2004 GOP gubernatorial bid may shed light on who some of those people are. RV magnate Mahlon Miller, for example, contributed more than a half-million dollars to Miller's campaign, which represented over 60% of the total funds he raised during his campaign. Miller returned the favor by lobbying for a tax break for the RV industry last year.

If you would like to review AI's analysis of Advance America's 2004 tax return, please click here.


Anonymous said...

Please do not stop this excellent coverage of this zealot's finances.

Thank you, a thousand times.

Maybe now someone in government will listen, or has he bought off enough supporters?

Anonymous said...

The Bush administration and the Justice Dept. conspired to eliminate U.S. Attorneys who did not meet their ideological standards. Our Governor has recently demonstrated that he doesn't have the backbone to stand up to Miller. In this environment, do you really think that Susan Brooks, the USA for the Southern District, will investigate Miller for tax improprieties? The only way Miller is going to be brought down is by being caught in bed with a live boy or a dead woman. D.C. Stephens was brought down by the latter, will Miller be brought down by the former?

Wilson46201 said...

Ernst Roehm was.

Anonymous said...

Is the IRS obligated to investigate (multiple) citizen complaints?

Does it help if we complain to our senators and Congresspersons?

I'm serious--if it helps, let's start flooding the place.

This goon's tax-exempt status has the unintended consequence (familiar phrase) of raising our taxes to make up for what he doesn't pay.

Let alone the hugely improper method by which this man collects his substantial paychecks.

Subsidized, frankly, by all of us.

Anonymous said...

"Churches and pastors will be forced to [fill in the blank]" is the same tired tactic he uses for all of his anti-GLBT stuff (churches will be forced to marry gays, pastors will be jailed for hate speech, and so on).

The man's not stupid, he knows it's not true, that's not the point. He only sends that crap one way, which is to the sheeple who don't know any better. He doesn't make these kinds of ridiculous arguments to the legislators themselves, he knows better.

In other words he doesn't try to club the legislators with over-the-top lies, but rather he clubs them with the people who have been stirred up by the lies. It's politcal power games at its most cynical.

Either way, Eric Miller is one of the most powerful people in the state of Indiana. If you don't believe it, go down to the State House and watch him parade around the Chambers like he owns the place. It's truly frightening.

So what about all of this makes the mainstream media and the authorities so afraid of him I wonder? Gary Welsh doesn't have any special connections to get the proof to make what seem to me to be pretty explosive allegations about one of Indiana's most powerful political figures. He just goes through public records the same way any reporter or state investigator can do.

Why did the Indy Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy do all of the research, obtain a smoking gun tape recorded interview with Miller himself, and then suddenly drop the story? And the tape? The Star says it's gone forever!

I'm not one of those conspiracy-theory types, but to me the lack of interest by the mainstream media, the Star and O'Shaughnessy's inexplicable dropping of a hot story for which most of the work was done, and the lack of action by the Lobby Registration Commission and other government authorities suggests that Miller's power and control reaches well beyond the State House.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I would encourage people to file complaints with the IRS. Others have done so in the past. I can tell you that about a year ago someone from was logged on to this site, searching the archives of all the Advance America postings specifically. Jeff, the Star situation is simply inexplicable. I don't know how many times someone would tell me the Star was going to do a big expose on Miller, only to be disappointed. Some of the people in the MSM, believe it or not, dismiss the reach of his power. They think folks like you and I are giving him more credit than he is due.

Anonymous said...

"I would encourage people to file complaints with the IRS."


Anonymous said...,,id=106778,00.html

Anonymous said...

take out the space, I don't know how to do the short link thing!

Anonymous said...

AI writes:

Some of the people in the MSM, believe it or not, dismiss the reach of his power. They think folks like you and I are giving him more credit than he is due.

I do believe it, but they couldn't be more wrong. The man has orchestrated two proposed CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS in as many years for crissakes, both of which are still alive (the recent committee defeat of the marriage amendment notwithstanding, that one WILL be back with a vengeance).

He engineered the defeat of a Hate Crimes law that only five states don't have, he organized an 11th hour derailment of a Human Rights Ordinance that was supposed to quietly pass without fanfare, and he is responsible for God being slapped on the back of tens of thousands of Hoosier automobiles. There's much more but you get the picture.

On top of that, he ran a credible and fairly well-funded campaign for governor in 2004.

If this is not political power, then what is?

Anonymous said...

on to of this power, he is clearly protecting a solid income stream.

And hell hath no fury like a zealot protecting his young or his wallet.

The IRS route is the best way. Everyone shoudl do it--'tis the season anyway! Apr. 15 looms! I'll bet his return is a fantastic work of fiction.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we are working the wrong angle? Has anyone tried sending this information to the various pastors of the churches? I don't think the sheeple much like being played for a fool. Once they know that the money they send mostly goes directly to Mr. Miller, they might be a bit upset.

Or maybe they think the ends justify the means. That wouldn't surprise me.

Anonymous said...

Nice thought, Paula. It's a definite possibility.

But the thought process at many of those churches is only skin-deep anyway. Unless you send along a primer on tax policies, they'd liukely view it as an attack on St. Eric.

It's a herd mentality, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Not so sure. If you just did a nice big pie chart with lots of pretty colors that says "Where do your dollars go" and they see that Eric is eating chunks out of that pie like Eric Cartman, that might open some eyes.

LOL. Wonder if Eric Miller has ever been compared to Eric Cartman? I can see him now : "You *will* respect my authoritay!"

Anonymous said...

If Jesus were here, he'd toss Eric the Money Changer out of the Temple.