“Polluting the Voters and Putting Partisanship Over Their Program”
With six days before the November 2nd election, Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance (MassFiscal) alerted the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) and the IRS of potentially illegal campaign and Super PAC spending by the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM). MassFiscal sent complaint letters to both OCPF and the IRS and is calling on ELM to immediately pull their ads. A copy of the letters maty be found at www.MassFiscal.org.
ELM is an IRS determined 501(c)(3) tax-deductible, non-profit organization. On August 20, 2020 they began serving digital Facebook ads that are considered Independent Expenditures through their ELM Facebook page. According to the OCPF’s website, Independent Expenditures reports were filed by the Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee that appear to correspond to these ads. While ELM AF IE PAC funds may have been utilized to pay for these ads, the use of the ELM’s resources and property in these ads is a violation of IRS rules for 501(c)(3) tax-deductible, non-profit organizations and is not in compliance with current laws. Beginning on June 24, 2020, ELM also used their Facebook social media page to post endorsements for approximately 37 state candidates. These endorsement posts were shared with their ELM members. These types of political campaign activities are in violation of IRS rules for 501(c)(3) tax-deductible, non-profit organizations, and is in noncompliance with the tax law.
“As concerned taxpayers of Massachusetts, we believe this information warrants an examination and we hope the IRS and OCPF will compel ELM to remove their campaign political endorsements from the organization’s social media group page and cease any further Independent Expenditures served from their tax-deductible social media page. ELM has put partisan politics ahead of their program, and state and federal rules must apply to everyone equally, including ELM,” said Paul Diego Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.
The list of endorsed candidates that are listed on ELM’s Facebook page are; Republican House Minority Leader Brad Jones, Democratic state Representative candidates; Christina Eckert, Sally Kerans, Amber Hewett, Deb Busser, Jake Oliveira, Meg Kilcoyne, Jessica Giannino, Mike Kushmerek, Ted Philips, Ceylan Rowe, Brandy Fluker Oakley, Steve Owens, Orlando Ramos, Damali Vidot, Democratic state Representatives; Kathy LaNatra, Tram Nguyen, Natalie Higgins, Michael Day, Kevin Honan, Joan Meschino, Tom Vitolo, , David Linsky, Frank Moran, Christine Barber, Jack Lewis, Kate Lipper-Garabedian, Paul Donato, Natalie Blais, Adrian Madaro, Dave Rogers; Republican state Senator Patrick O’Connor; Democratic state senators Susan Moran, Becca Rausch, Eric Lesser, Pat Jehlan, and Democratic state Senate candidates John Cronin.
“While we are strong supporters of the right of free speech and fully support organizations using the IRS tax code to achieve maximum benefit to their members and missions, this case is a clear violation of the rules. A line must be drawn at using a tax-deductible organization to serve Super PAC ads on social media before an election and to push their list of endorsed candidates. It’s tantamount to taxpayers paying for these ads. We hope that ELM, a tax-exempt organization, will remove these independent expenditure ads and their list of endorsed candidates from their social media page. They should express their opinions in a more appropriate matter that is consistent with state campaign finance and IRS laws,” concluded Craney.