Our Merch:

Congressional Republicans Launch ‘Fishing Expedition’ Against Progressive, Jewish, and Palestinian Nonprofits

Columbia University faculty members stand on the steps of The Low Library to protest the ban of Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine on the college campus. | Edna Leshowitz/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom

Remember when Republicans were against using the tax cops to go after political opponents? Well, they seem to have changed their minds.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R–Ky.) has made no secret of his desire to use finance laws against left-leaning activists. A few months ago, he complained that the IRS was going too easy on progressive nonprofits. Now he’s found another angle of attack: insinuating that these organizations are part of an anti-Israel conspiracy.

Comer and House Education Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R–N.C.) are “investigating the sources of funding and financing for groups who are organizing, leading, and participating in pro-Hamas, antisemitic, anti-Israel, and anti-American protests” on college campuses, they announced in a Tuesday letter.

“This investigation relates both to malign influence on college campuses and to the national security implications of such influence on faculty and student organizations,” Comer and Foxx wrote.

Foxx objected when the shoe was on the other foot. In 2013, it was revealed that the IRS had been placing extra scrutiny on nonprofits whose paperwork included terms such as tea party and patriot. Foxx wrote an op-ed criticizing the “outrageous” demands for information that IRS investigators had made.

“The problem at the IRS is with more than the search terms it used. Whether conservative or liberal, targeting Americans is wrong,” she stated. “The deeper problem is that government’s taxing arm ever came to consider itself the arbiter of what constitutes legitimate free speech in the first place.”

Asked about Foxx’s earlier statements, her spokesman Alex Ives wrote to Reason that “what you are positing amounts to false equivalencies on many levels.” He stated that Foxx was seeking to “ensure groups do not have financial ties to designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” without citing specific examples.

“Do groups on campuses have a right to free speech? Of course,” Ives said. “Do they have a right to have their ties to foreign financiers connected to terror organizations to go unscrutinized? Of course not.”

The letter from Foxx and Comer demands that the Department of the Treasury provide all Suspicious Activity Reports, or bulletins on potential tax evasion and money laundering, for 20 different organizations. The list includes Students for Justice in Palestine and its sponsor, the WESPAC Foundation. It also names off-campus Muslim and Palestinian-American groups, Jewish peace movements, and many organizations that are not primarily focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This is part of a broader effort to demonize parts of the tax-exempt sector that a part of the Republican Party views as a key target in the war on woke,” says Lara Friedman, president of the nonprofit Foundation for Middle East Peace, which has been tracking Congress’ stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “If you make this about supposedly fighting antisemitism, you bring parts of the Democratic Party with you.”

Many of the groups listed are big names in progressive philanthropy: George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, the Pritzker family’s Libra Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Rockefeller organization gave several hundreds of thousands of dollars to Jewish Voice for Peace; another Jewish group for Palestinian rights called IfNotNow; the Adalah Justice Project, a Palestinian-American rights group; and Palestine Legal, a legal aid service for pro-Palestinian advocates in America.

The RBF has had no direct involvement in the campus protests nor have we earmarked funds for them,” Rockefeller Brothers Fund spokeswoman Sarah Edkins said in a statement last week. “Some RBF grantees have provided training, messaging, and/or legal support to student protest leaders. The Fund does not direct the activities of any grantee organizations.”

Edkins added that the fund “respects Israel’s right to exist and supports the right to self-determination for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.”

The Open Society Foundations also gave several hundreds of thousands of dollars to Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, according to Rolling Stone. The grant-making network told Politico that it “has funded a broad spectrum of US groups that have advocated for the rights of Palestinians and Israelis and for peaceful resolution to the conflict in Israel.”

It’s not clear why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Libra Foundation wound up on the list. Last week, Politico named them as supporters of pro-Palestinian protests, because of their donations to the Tides Foundation, a clearinghouse for progressive groups that funds Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, Adalah, and Palestine Legal. But the Gates and Libra donations were earmarked for other causes.

Jewish Voice for Peace says that the congressional letter is “inaccurate, dangerous and a desperate attempt by right-wing legislators to criminalize public protest. These legislators are falsely and libelously smearing tens of thousands of students as antisemitic, simply because they are protesting the use of their tuition dollars in the massacres of Palestinian families.”

Two of the groups listed in the letter, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also offered statements to Reason. The Libra Foundation declined to comment, and the Gates Foundation pointed to its comments to Politico. None of the other groups responded to emails asking for comment.

“AMP looks forward to demonstrating in any jurisdiction that it operates wholly within the laws of the United States, compliant with all laws and regulations governing U.S. nonprofit entities,” the organization’s attorney Christina Jump says. “AMP operates completely within the United States, raises funds completely within the United States, and utilizes those donations completely within the United States to support its mission of educating American Muslims and the American public on the rich history and culture of Palestine.”

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says that the letter “reads like a bad impersonation of Joseph McCarthy. Instead of advancing the goals of a foreign government by pursuing witch hunts against the American people, Rep. Foxx, Rep. Comer and other genocide-enablers in Congress should focus on washing the blood of over 30,000 slaughtered Palestinian civilians off their hands.”

Republicans are not the only ones trying to bring the U.S. tax code into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In New York, some Democrats are trying to strip away nonprofit status from organizations that operate in Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. New York–based nonprofits have raised money to buy drones for settler militias and to maintain a military academy in a West Bank settlement.

The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing in November 2023 on the “nexus” between campus protests and “terror financing.” Soon after, the House passed a bill allowing the secretary of the treasury to shut down nonprofits based on vague insinuations of terrorist support. Last week, 15 Republican senators called on the IRS to revoke the nonprofit status of any organization that supported Students for Justice in Palestine.

Friedman, the Foundation for Middle East Peace president, believes that the congressional letter is more likely to have a “chilling effect” on nonprofits than to turn up any real evidence of illegal activity.

“It’s partly a fishing expedition,” she says. “And by lodging an accusation, they hope to paint a picture in the mind of the public.”

The post Congressional Republicans Launch 'Fishing Expedition' Against Progressive, Jewish, and Palestinian Nonprofits appeared first on Reason.com.

View Article Here Taxes | Reason Archives

Leave a Comment

Powered by WP Robot

Scroll to Top