Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina Republicans say a group of five nonprofits have broken rules about not getting involved in campaigns that come with 501(c)3 status.
During a news conference at the party's headquarters this morning, lawyer and spokesman Kieran Shanahan called out five groups as "systematically targeting Republican candidates." All five groups sponsor a website and events under the "Out-of-Control" banner.
The Out-of-Control website focuses on what its authors describe as "unethical, unconstitutional and out of touch" policies put forward by Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.
Shanahan said during the news conference that it is unfair to taxpayers for these groups to engage in political activities while getting tax breaks, including the ability to accept tax deductible donations.
The party has filed IRS complaints against the five groups, which are either listed as "Out-of-Control" sponsors on its website or have co-sponsored events with the group. They are:
- Institute for Southern Studies describes itself as a resource for those "working to bring lasting social and economic change to the region." In North Carolina political circles, it's best known for work critical of financial contributions to political campaigns by interests connected to former state Rep. Art Pope.
- North Carolina Justice Center is a liberal leaning group that focuses on state-level policy analysis. A reporter with its N.C. Policy Watch arm first raised questions that were cited in a federal indictment of Rep. Stephen LaRoque this week.
- Democracy North Carolina describes itself as "a statewide nonpartisan organization that uses research, advocacy, organizing, civic engagement and training programs to address the key issues affecting democracy in North Carolina."
- ProgressNC, which has an affiliated 501(c)4. The rules of political engagement for (c)3 and (c)4 groups are slightly different, although it is the (c)3 group that is listed as a sponsor on the Out-of-Control website. Progress NC is probably best known for its (c)4 group's involvement in producing commercials targeting Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory.
- Project Ricochet, Inc. of NC, a group that bills itself as "finding practical solutions that assist minority youth who are prone to anti-social and gang affiliated behaviors while discovering positive and productive life-style alternatives." It run by Abeni El-Amin, who lost a Democratic primary in her run for state legislature this spring.
It's unclear what action, if any, the IRS might take. The most severe penalty, of course, would be a loss of the organizations' tax exempt status. And there's certainly an argument to be made that the "Out-of-Control" groups may have walked up to a line but did not cross it.