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What Would Grover Norquist say?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Western Farm Press, in a June 29 editorial by Harry Cline, its editor, labeled the Environmental Working Group “tax dodgers.” The headline, “Environmental Working Group dodges taxes on $90 million,” summed up Cline’s view. He went on to add:

“In the spirit of EWG’s taxpayer protection doctrine, let us share with you another organization that is raiding the U.S. Treasury for personal gain; the Environmental Working Group.”

And:

EWG and its benefactors have fleeced state and federal governments of the taxes on roughly $180 million, far more than any of the so-called worst offenders in EWG’s farm subsidy list for the past decade and a half.”

Clearly Cline is no fan of the Environmental Working Group in particular, environmental organizations generally, and of course, the media, from an outer orbit of which Cline plies his trade. Much as he might like to aim his tax gripe exclusively at groups whose nonprofit work he disdains – rather like past presidents have aimed the IRS at their “enemies list” – his broadside against nonprofits would apply to any and all tax-exempt organizations.

Cline claimed that EWG dodged taxes on $90 million over the past 15 years. We presume he wasn’t saying that EWG is breaking the law. We diligently follow IRS rules and file the appropriate tax returns every year.

By his logic, EWG’s form of “tax dodging” ($30 million over the past 5 years) is epidemic. Over the last five years:

the National Corn Growers Association “dodged” taxes on $36 million;

the National Cotton Council “dodged” taxes on $71 million;

the American Farm Bureau Federation “dodged” taxes on $105 million; and

the National Rifle Association “dodged” taxes on a whopping $1.1 billion.

And presumably that epidemic would also include the billions in annual revenues on which churches of every denomination paid no tax. Perhaps Cline has particular faiths he’d like to accuse of tax evasion. We wouldn’t want to be Cline if hundreds of churches and Sunday schools in his area suddenly had to start paying business-like taxes as a result of his effort to repeal section 501(c) tax exemptions.

Cline’s writings suggest he is a conservative, yet he appears to favor a tax increase amounting to many billions of dollars a year to stop tens of thousands of “tax dodging” nonprofits.

What would the Tea Party and Grover Norquist say to such conservative heresy?

What are some of those other tens of thousands of tax exempt organizations “raiding the US Treasury for personal gain” that Cline presumably would put on the federal tax rolls, along with EWG and other environmental organizations he singles out?

Here’s the tiny tip of the iceberg:

AARP

American Cancer Society

American Diabetes Association

American Enterprise Institute

American Farm Bureau Federation

American Petroleum Institute

American Soybean Association

Boy Scouts

California irrigation companies

Children’s Hospital Central California (Madera, Calif.)

Christian Broadcasting Network

Churches of all denominations

Easter Seals

Girl Scouts

National Corn Growers Association

National Cotton Council

National Rifle Association

Saint Agnes Medical Center (Fresno, Calif.)

Heritage Foundation

Red Cross

United Way

YMCA

On and on the list would go. All of these organizations and many more file forms with the IRS every year to report their revenues. The IRS does not consider them “tax dodgers” simply because they claim the tax status to which they are entitled.

We do wonder if Cline would be inclined to direct his special brand of half-baked antipathy towards organizations that not only are tax exempt, but also receive government grants or contracts – taxpayer money on which they also pay no taxes. That would include, for instance, groups like the nonprofit Alliance for Food and Farming, which has sought in vain to discredit EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, and certain other farm and commodity organizations.

Maybe that’s another big story Cline imagines “the media” have missed.

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