Meth, Mailings, Tax Exemptions, and the National Right to Work Committee

Citizen Wealth Financial Justice Labor Organizing

2016-Right-To-Work-26-States-MapNew Orleans   The National Right to Work Committee has long been the bane of the labor movement’s existence, as it campaigns from state to state, courthouse to courthouse, and, more recently in Kentucky, county to county, to make it as difficult as possible for union members to pay dues to their organizations. The Committee was founded in 1955, largely to mount campaigns to eliminate union-shop provisions at the state legislative level where it was very successful in the Southern and Western states. The Committee is unsurprisingly registered as a 501c4, tax exempt with the IRS, which also requires as part of that status that the organization eschew any direct political activity. Such a status also allows them to maintain the mystery of their corporate and individual donors by not disclosing the names. Needless to say they claim to be apolitical.

Those claims may be cast aside by the fact though, since the AP reports that the veil has been pierced in a most unusual way:

Montana began to investigate Right to Work’s involvement in past elections when boxes of state candidate files, surveys, mailers and bank statements turned up in 2012 in what authorities described as a Denver “meth house.” LeFer [a Committee worker] said the documents had been stolen. The files were later featured in a “Frontline” documentary that suggested the Right to Work-affiliated group American Tradition Partnership illegally coordinated with candidates.

We can only imagine how the records ended up there, but several states found that candidates, often first-timers, had been solicited and received help, ostensibly at free or reduced price, from the Committee or its affiliates offering a series of “late stage” mailings to advance their campaigns and appeal to conservative voters. This had been the case in Montana, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, and Nevada in the 2010 election cycle. Although the organization has not been formally charged, Montana has jumped on this like a dog on a bone, filing civil cases on illegal collusion and failure to report contributions against 9 of the 14 candidates in their state who had received the package.

Needless to say none of them had declared the benefits in their legally mandated election reports anywhere else either. As the Associated Press also reports:

Montana, Iowa and Kentucky had bans against direct contributions from corporations such as Right to Work to candidates in 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Indiana had a $2,000 corporate contribution limit to legislative candidates and Nevada’s limit was $5,000.

Montana seems to have caught these folks “dirty as dishwater,” but six years on, the other states don’t seem to be moving quickly or at all to straighten up this mess. Some of the higher ups in the Kentucky who were working for the Committee were part of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s recently abandoned campaign for President, so they may have had the juice there to stop anyone from looking too hard to clean this up.

The charity division of the Internal Revenue Service can’t be oblivious to all of these shenanigans, yet there is also no sign that anything has changed given these events concerning the tax status of the National Right to Work Committee. As bad as all of this is, one of the morals of this story has to be that if you are fighting unions by hook or crook, you can pretty much get away with anything, except maybe in Montana.