Ethics Watch Requests IRS Investigation of Partisan “Watchdog” Group
Updated May 4, 2012: In response to ColoradoPols.com’s release of the complete, unedited video of OGI Director Peck’s speech to the Colorado Republican Business Coalition, Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro released the following statement:
“We’re pleased that the complete video has come to light and believe it confirms our suspicions about OGI. It is well-known in the nonprofit world that charitable organizations can’t devote resources to intervening on behalf of candidates for office, and yet in this video Ms. Peck appears to be asking for contributions to help OGI do exactly that.”
Original story follows:
DENVER - Today, Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against the Open Government Institute of Colorado (OGI), asking for an investigation of actions taken by OGI to benefit the re-election campaign of Representative Mike Coffman, which could call into question the organization’s pending non-profit 501(c)(3) status.
A video posted on the political blog coloradopols.com shows Executive Director Jessica Peck’s remarks at an April 20 Colorado Republican Business Coalition event. Ms. Peck was recorded on video camera saying “Congressman Coffman, we’re working on some things that may, in a very non-partisan way, benefit you in your endeavors in November, so I’ll talk a little about that. So, I come here as a partisan Republican…,” which can be interpreted as stating that OGI has already taken specific actions to “benefit” U.S. Rep. Coffman’s “endeavors” in November, i.e. his reelection. Ms. Peck’s remarks also allude to future activities that will be conducted by OGI between now and Rep. Coffman’s November election.
“Ms. Peck’s remarks are tantamount to telling a roomful of potential donors that a contribution to OGI is a tax-deductible way of supporting Rep. Coffman’s reelection campaign,” said Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch. “The IRS has made it clear that 501(c)(3) organizations may not support or oppose candidates for office. There are many non-profit organizations in Colorado, representing every point of view, who take care to follow these rules, and none of us want one bad apple to spoil the bunch.”
Based on the information Ethics Watch has received and researched, Ethics Watch has requested that the IRS carefully examine the activities of OGI before considering approval of OGI’s pending application for 501(c)(3) status.