Every day of the Trump administration is like an extended issue-spotter law school exam. This afternoon, we’re headed for tax class. READY?
See how many potential problems you can spot here:
Charitable Organization A is a 501(c)(3) run by religious leaders who are campaign and policy surrogates for Government Official T in his desultory outreach efforts to a particular minority group. Organization A holds public events at which it hosts speakers touting Official T’s policies while simultaneously giving away envelopes of cash to attendees, who must be present to claim their prizes. The cash comes from anonymous, tax-deductible donations to Organization A. At one such event, the host handed an envelope of cash to the mother of a well-known sports figure, joking, “She don’t need the money. She do not need the money!” When questioned about the propriety of the cash disbursements, the religious leader claimed it was fine because he required recipients to fill out a W-9 tax form.
It’s funny, because it’s true. As Politico reported this morning, Pastor Darrell Scott, who co-chairs Black Voices for Trump along with Diamond and Silk and Herman Cain, founded the Urban Revitalization Coalition in 2017. Since then, Scott and the Coalition’s co-founder Karim Lanier have met with multiple Republican officials at the White House to promote Trump’s proposed Opportunity Zones under the First Step Act.
The Coalition’s $30,000 giveaway scheduled to honor Trump and Jared Kushner last week at the historically black Union University in Richmond was canceled by the school. But at the group’s “Christmas Extravaganza” in Cleveland, deputy presidential assistant Ja’Ron Smith and Fox’s Geraldo Rivera were in attendance. That evening, Lanier gave a speech comparing Democratic scrutiny of Donald Trump “to the plight of wrongfully incarcerated black men” and describing him as first president in the history of this country to incentivize people who have the money to put it into … urban areas.”
Then they gave away $25,000 in cash to multiple recipients whose names were drawn from a bin, including a woman dressed as an elf who shouted “Four more years of President Trump. Yay!” and the mother of Golden State Warriors forward Omari Spellman. Which suggests that these cash disbursements were simply random gifts to people willing to listen to Trump campaign surrogates talk, rather than tailored to a specific charitable purpose.
Or, as Marcus Owens, former director of the Exempt Organizations Division at the Internal Revenue Service currently in private practice at the law firm Loeb & Loeb told Politico, “It’s not immediately clear to me how simply giving money away to people at an event is a charitable act.”
Asked about the legality of the giveaways in a brief phone interview, the Urban Revitalization Coalition’s CEO, Darrell Scott, said that most gifts were between $300 and $500, and that the group mandates that anyone who receives over $600 fills out a W-9 form in order to ensure compliance with tax law. He did not respond to follow-up questions about how the giveaways were structured and whether they met the legal standard for a charitable act.
Scott declined to name the donors funding the effort. “I’d rather not,” he said. “They prefer to remain anonymous.”
Do charitable institutions regularly issue W-9 forms to aid recipients? Is a MAGA rally a charitable purpose? Should Darrell Scott, a guy who once accused Democrats of “st[anding] next to the inner cities just like a pimp stands next to a prostitute,” really be handing out envelopes of cash in a major metropolitan area to a room full of African Americans? And how long will the IRS agent on this case have to lie on the floor before the room stops spinning?
Trump allies are handing out cash to black voters [Politico]
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