Friday, April 3, 2009

Letter to IRS regarding HSUS

Just one comment: My letter mentions a specific bill and hearing I attended in Maryland. If anyone wants to write a similar letter, they should be careful about straight cut/copy paste. Actually, if people can find other examples, that's even better!

The key thing with writing a letter like this is to address the TAX issue - nothing about whether the lobbying is good or bad. I wanted to make the public point that if other lobbying groups can't get contributions that are tax deductible, why should HSUS? In other words - the American taxpayer (merely as a taxpayer) shouldn't pay for any lobbying, not just HSUS, if it isn't legal!

I have complained to the IRS about a 501(c)(3) organization
expending much of its resources in lobbying efforts. Perhaps if
others do the same, the IRS will investigate. Yes, there is a
"Humane Society Legislative Fund" that is authorized to conduct
lobbying. I don't know if tecnically that group is doing the
lobbying, but I doubt it. Here is my letter. Feel free to use
anything that might be useful, and you can cross-post if it would
help. It would probably be good if there were individual,
specific examples - such as my Maryland example - to show how
wide-spread their lobbying efforts are. Douglas Shulman is the
Commissioner of the IRS, and I copied him.

IRS EO Classification
Mail Code 4910
1100 Commerce Street
Dallas, TX 75242

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am very upset that the American taxpayers are being denied tens
of millions of dollars in taxes that should be paid. As I
understand it, IRC Section 501(c)(3) charities are not allowed to
conduct more than a minimal amount of lobbying. Yet, one of the
largest "charities" in the country is constantly lobbying and
helping to draft and pass legislation.

In 2007, the Humane Society of The United States (EIN 53-0225390)
received over $150 million, yet paid no taxes. During that time,
they vigorously lobbied to enact many laws. According to their
own annual report
they lobbied for many new laws. Some of the more blatant
examples: page 6 - "We lobbied for the successful passage
of legislation in Illinois"; page 12 "In Congress, we secured language in the Senate Interior
Appropriations bill to"; page 12 "We persuaded the New Jersey Legislature to allocate
$850,000"; page 15 "We
also won passage of two precedent-setting bills in the New
York State legislature" and "helped pass a resolution
in the U.S. House of Representatives"; and page 17
"Following our successful state ballot initiative
campaigns in Arizona and Florida" Your own web
site states, "An organization will be regarded as
attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the
public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for
the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or
if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of
legislation." It's pretty clear that the HSUS
is "attempted to influence legislation."

This is not an isolated year. In fact, their current web site
indicates that they are going to increase their lobbying efforts!
"On the heels of
these advances, the HSUS is better positioned than ever to make
new gains for animals in 2009. We intend to pass federal
legislation to crack down on abusive puppy mills."
This, despite the fact that a 501(c)(3) organization can
only conduct minimal lobbying. Their web site encourages the
public to contact the members of the legislature to adopt the
laws proposed by HSUS. I was at a recent hearing of a proposed
state bill (Maryland HB 495), and representatives of HSUS were
there to advocate their position. It is my understanding that
this is occurring across the country. Their agenda clearly
includes influencing legislation.

Even if HSUS were properly approved as a non-profit lobbying
organization, the American taxpayers have lost millions of
dollars in taxes that weren't paid because money
contributed to this non-charity was deducted from taxable income.
In 2007 alone, the public donated over $85 million to HSUS. Even
using an extremely conservative tax rate of 10%, taxpayers were
cheated out of $8.5 million“ and that's only in

Not only does the HSUS engage in extensive lobbying, but they are
also involved in campaigning for the politicians who support
their agenda!!!

"Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3)
organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or
indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political
campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for
elective public office.[V]oter education or registration
activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one
candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or
(c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of
candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or

During a recent seminar, the HSUS distributed a "voting
record" of all candidates.

According to their 2007 Form 990, the HSUS paid only $6 million
out of their $150 million in receipts for services that actually
helped animals (line 22b). The rest of their "program
services" expenditures went essentially to salaries and
"educational" literature. Yet, much of this
material ($15 million in expenses) references their lobbying
efforts. In fact, one publication details their legislative
efforts! How much of the salaries, travel, and other expenses
went to lobby for legislation that they helped write? How much
did they spend in lobbying efforts in Proposition 2 in California
alone? Their 990 indicates over $1.5 million (out of the $6
million supposedly used for program causes), but this does not
include the salaries and travel of staff, publicizing their
viewpoint in an effort to convince the general public to vote for
their own law, and other "hidden" expenses.

If the HSUS wants to be a lobbying organization, they should be
upfront about it. Please do not allow them to benefit from
millions of dollars in tax exemptions that should be paid as
income tax, or allow charitable deductions for money paid to a
lobbying group.

I hope that as a government agency not directly connected with
the goals of the HSUS (other than allowing them to retain
millions of dollars that should rightly be paid as taxes), you
will take appropriate action to rescind their charitable
organization status and collect the taxes that could be, and
should be, used to pay for taxpayer services.

Caroline Sullivan


Anonymous said...

Caroline -- 501(c)(3) organizations can legally spend up to 5 percent of their (multi-year averaged) expenditures on "direct" lobbying, and up to another 15 percent on "indirect" lobying -- for instance, asking people to call their representatives to vote "yes" or "no" on a specific bill, or organizing "lobby days" to get other people to influence legislators. This is perfectly legal. Nonprofits are eligible to do this under section 501(h) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Caroline said...

That's true (I said they could do minimal lobbying) as long as the dollar amount doesn't exceed $1 million. With the extreme amount of lobbying they've done, though, sending people to all these hearings, meeting with legislators, including their lobbying efforts in print, etc., I have no doubt they've spent over $1 million. Hopefully the IRS will be able to make that determination.

Anonymous said...

HSUS and Wayne Pacelle needs to be stopped! Only 4 cents of every HSUS donation dollar goes to ANY hand-on animal care. The only thing Wayne Pacelle cares about is Wayne Pacelle and his future political career (that's right Wayne, the news is out, be careful who you trust), not about the animals we love so much. ALWAYS donate to your local shelter, NEVER to the Humane Society of the United States. There is nothing humane about HSUS. Look at the HSUS tax returns posted on their site. You will see where the money is REALLY going. And by the way, nice raise you gave yourself Wayne Pacelle! Almost a quarter million dollar salary and perks! Thanks Wayne!