In a sign that the Bush Justice Department is working to minimize damage to the “conservative movement” stemming from the Abramoff scandal, the indictment and plea agreement ignore his misuse of the Capital Athletic Foundation. According to philanthropic watchdog National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy the indictment reveals “the debilitated condition of government oversight of nonprofits and foundations.”
The indictments and resulting plea agreement acknowledge the dubious if not illegal grantmaking of Abramoff’s Capitol Athletic Foundation (CAF) in more than one instance, but fail to penalize Abramoff on his abuse of the CAF as a personal cash reserve.
… For the past two years, alone among national philanthropic nonprofits, NCRP has detailed and denounced a variety of Abramoff’s misuses of philanthropy and called for IRS investigations, to no avail.
You see, the entire “conservative movement” operation depends on tax-free donations to so-called “charitable” organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and hundreds of other national and state organizations that are supposed to be non-partisan but in reality operate almost entirely to the benefit of the Republican Party. So any kind of crackdown on the misuse of tax-free charitable donations would threaten the continued existence of the right-wing noise machine itself.
Abramoff’s connection to and abuse of a “clearly phony” non-profit organization is a lead the Bush Administration’s Justice Department doesn’t want to follow, because it is this network of organizations that pays – and pays well – for the army of right-wingers who write op-eds, articles and books supporting the Republican agenda, who make appearances on so many radio and TV shows and who offer “informed opinions” for news articles and programs. These are the PR and marketing organizations that send out the repeated pro-conservative messaging and strategic narratives that move American ever more rightward. An honest investigation of their funding and operation would threaten the underpinnings of the conservative movement’s “Right Wing Noise Machine.” So it ain’t gonna happen as long as Bush is in charge of where the Abramoff investigation leads.
“We share the frustration of Senators Dorgan and McCain,” added Cohen, “that foundations like Abramoff’s CAF could do so many clearly unwarranted and illicit activities that should have raised red flags at the IRS, but received no oversight or legal action.” Cohen added, “This underscores not only the need for stronger government oversight and enforcement, but stronger laws outlining what foundations should not be allowed to do under the guise of philanthropic grantmaking. Because Abramoff and his tax advisors may have found loopholes to make the CAF’s grantmaking nominally legal, that doesn’t make the grantmaking ethical or right.”
NCRP calls on the IRS to investigate the Capital Athletic Foundation’s grantmaking, and to pursue civil and criminal actions against not only Abramoff, but also against the attorneys and tax advisors who conspired with Abramoff to find ways of using foundations to make grants and expenditures that violate the public’s expectations of philanthropic institutions. “These tax exempt moneys, once they were entrusted to the CAF, were public funds to be used for public benefit purposes, not Abramoff’s private stash to be used for self-enrichment and political advancement,” Cohen charged, “and the American taxpayer shouldn’t have to lose out on millions of dollars of tax exempt funds due to the misspending of the likes of Abramoff, and inadequate oversight and enforcement offered by the federal government and by the leadership of the nonprofit and foundation sector.”
Note – more on Abramoff, phony non-profits, and the operation of the RWNM here.