The IRS reportedly took just a few weeks to give its okay to a charity founded by President Barack Obama’s half brother.
The news of this unusually speedy government approval comes amidst the ongoing controversy about how Tea Party and other groups found themselves in limbo for up to three years waiting for IRS approval of their tax-exempt status applications. Investigations into the unlawful extra scrutiny to which the IRS subjected politically conservative groups are ongoing.
Approval of such nonprofit groups generally takes about six months under normal processing. The fast-track approval came through even though the foundation may have been operating illegally. “The 34 days the IRS’s Cincinnati office took to process the foundation’s application stands in contrast to the waits of several months — and sometimes longer than a year — that several conservative groups say they experienced with the same office.”
The Arlington, Va.-based Barack H. Obama Foundation was set up to improve the quality of life for poor Kenyans and was founded by Abon’go Malik Obama, the president’s half brother, in memory of their father.
The group also apparently had been operating as tax exempt and collecting tax deductible donations in that context for several years without obtaining the necessary approval from the IRS or even officially registering in Virginia. “It is illegal to operate for longer than 27 months without an IRS determination and solicit tax-deductible contributions.”
A former State Department official affiliated which the charity admitted in early May 2011 that “We haven’t been able to find someone with the expertise to [apply for tax-exempt status].” The National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint against the foundation in May 2011 for that reason.
On May 23, 2011, the Obama Foundation evidently filed the necessary paperwork, and the IRS appears to have quickly granted the tax exemption on Jun 26, 2011. The IRS even gave the foundation a retroactive tax exemption back to April 30, 2008 which is said to be unprecedented. The approval letter was signed by Lois Lerner, the IRS official who admitted last week that the IRS subjected Tea Party groups to wrongful extra scrutiny.
According to the NLPC, “It appears that the Obama Foundation was treated quite differently from Tea Party and conservative groups seeking nonprofit status. Soliciting tax-deductible contributions before applying for tax-exempt status is against the law, and should have been an impediment, if not an outright disqualification, from being granted such status.”
Added the NLPC: “The disparity is even more striking when one considers that the Obama Foundation sought 501(c)(3) status, which allows donors to deduct contributions while many Tea Party groups sought only 501(c)(4) status, which does not allow for the same benefit.”
Are you surprised that the IRS apparently gave the Barack H. Obama Foundation expedited service while Tea Party and other tax-exempt applications languished?
[top image via Shutterstock]