Editors’ Note: This is the first of a three-part series on how some politicians and their special interest supporters are attempting to intimidate, discredit and destroy nonprofits that oppose them through the misuse of fundraising regulations. 

Saturday the 9th marked the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s resignation for abuse of power and process.

Sadly, on this anniversary of Nixon’s fall from grace we must inform you there’s an ugly, dangerous and utterly frightening campaign of distortion and intimidation being perpetrated against The Humane Society of The United States by Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Attorney General and his special interest backers.

By misusing cost-of-fundraising regulations and camouflaging these blatant distortions as ‘consumer protection’ they’re creating the equivalent of Nixon’s ‘enemies list’ for sole purpose of protecting big agribusiness and factory farmers by attempting to silence animal protection advocates.

Some may dismiss these actions as an attempt by an overly ambitious politician setting the stage for a run for higher office (in this case the governorship) to please his special interest campaign contributors and supporters (factory farmers, the Farm Bureau, ranchers and meat packers).

But frankly, we fear this misuse and abuse of fundraising regulations by an elected official with the goal of intimidating, weakening or discrediting a large and respected nonprofit — simply because it holds opposing views — is dangerous and must be exposed and challenged.

Here’s a bit of history about what happens when state or federal officials abuse power and process in efforts to silence political opponents. Why The Agitator is deeply concerned … and why all citizens and advocacy nonprofits should be equally concerned.

Seldom But Rotten

Fortunately, there have been relatively few occasions in modern history where politicians blatantly sought to use the power of their office to silence nonprofits that opposed them.

Equally as fortunate, past attempts to bully nonprofits and their constituencies have almost always resulted in these office holders getting their political asses whipped, and their stupidity spotlighted.

At the end of the day, Americans have little tolerance for political zealots and bullies.

Seeking to block civil rights progress by intimidating the NAACP, its members and contributors, the State of Alabama sought to compel the organization to turn over its membership and contributor list. The organization refused.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the NAACP and enshrined the concept of “associational privacy” by ruling “Freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the ‘liberty’ assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

When the Sierra Club ran a full page ad in The New York Times and The Washington Post with the headline “This time it’s the Grand Canyon they want to flood,” and also asked, “Should we also flood the Sistine Chapel so tourists can get nearer the ceiling?” Lyndon Johnson’s Internal Revenue Service announced it was suspending the Sierra Club’s 501(c)(3) status pending an investigation.

The public rallied against the bully. Membership in the Club nearly tripled over the next three years. The Sierra Club changed its tax status to a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, which permitted it to advocate even more, and Johnson looked like a fool as growth for the Sierra Club continued to grow and grow.

One of the fascinating by-products or tools of the Watergate scandal was the ‘Enemy’s List’.

The official purpose of the ‘Enemy’s List’, as described by the White House Counsel’s Office, was to “screw” Nixon’s political enemies, by means of tax audits from the Internal Revenue Service, and by manipulating grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, etc. In a memorandum from White House Counsel John Dean (August 16, 1971), Dean explained the purpose of the list:

“This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

The IRS Commissioner, Donald Alexander, refused to launch audits of the people on the list. One more nail in Nixon’s political coffin.

  • 2014. They’re At It Again. We Must Make Sure They Lose. Again.

We could go on and on about how the massive financial and legal power of the state can be marshaled in staged, circus-like processes — political and legal — to silence debate and dissent.

From the McCarthy anti-Communist Hearings and ‘blacklisting’, to today’s farcical or at least overwrought House investigations of the IRS’ withholding proposed 501(c)(3) tax exemptions from some Tea Party and some liberal organizations.

Everyone Who Talks About Heaven Ain’t Going There.

Make no mistake, the ravings of Oklahoma’s Attorney General Pruitt and his special interest backers are NOT aimed at protection of the citizens, the taxpayers, nor consumers. They are thinly veiled attempts to prevent The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection organizations from interfering with the massive abuse of animals and the environmental degradation that result from highly profitable factory farms and big agribusiness.

What is fascinating — and especially frightening — is that although much of the current political and legal theater is playing out on the national level and in the babble-land of cable pundits, what’s happening in Oklahoma is a silent but deadly trend of far more fearsome proportions, with far more disturbing consequences in the states.

Their goal: Weaken and silence citizens groups opposed to the special interests that fund the politicians. In turn (quid pro quo), the politicians can deliver the BIG $$$$ the special interests sought when they made those campaign contributions in the first place.

The Weapon: Misuse of state fundraising regulations to confuse and drive away donors and intimidate nonprofits into silence.

Coming Attraction: Tomorrow we’ll tell you how the dust bowl politician Scott Pruitt, backed by the PR machine and money of Big Agribusiness, is attempting to intimidate and silence the Humane Society of the United States. You’ll be appalled.

Roger and Tom


This article was posted in: Nonprofit management, Transparency.
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