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GOP Lawyer Group Leader Mitchell: IRS Should Yank CREW's Tax-Exempt Status

By Henry J. Reske and Kathleen Walter   |   Thursday, 11 Aug 2011 06:46 PM

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) is little more than a front group for the Democratic Party and should not enjoy the tax-exempt status of a charitable organization, attorney Cleta Mitchell tells Newsmax.TV.

Mitchell, president of the Republican National Lawyers Association, has filed a complaint with the IRS questioning the nonprofit 501(c)(3) status of Washington, D.C.-based CREW on behalf of Christine O’Donnell, who was defeated in her U.S. Senate bid in Delaware last year.

“Our concern is that, for the past several election cycles, that this organization, which is a George Soros-funded, left-wing, very liberal ally of the Democratic Party, has been acting as a political organization rather than as a charitable, nonprofit entity,” she said.

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CREW, under penalty of perjury, has said that it is a charitable and educational organization, said Mitchell, a partner in the Washington office of Foley & Lardner LLP. As such, people who donate to CREW can take a deduction on their taxes, and CREW is prohibited from spending money on anything that could be “construed to be a political expenditure or intervening in a partisan political campaign.”

“Our argument to the IRS is that, for several years, CREW has been acting not as a charity but as a political organization, and their charitable status should be revoked by the IRS,” she said.

CREW disputes the complaint. Its chief counsel, Anne Weismann, told Fox News that the complaint is “completely without merit.”

Mitchell, who contends that CREW has been breaking the law, cited its role in O’Donnell’s campaign for the Delaware Senate seat as an example.

“Christine O’Donnell won the primary as the Republican Senate nominee in Delaware in September of 2010, and within 24 hours of the time, when Christine O’Donnell won the primary, CREW was on TV attacking Christine O’Donnell, alleging she was quote unquote corrupt and a criminal, and they had developed this whole packet of quote material and investigation and they immediately filed and FEC complaint,” she said.

“They immediately demanded that the U.S. attorney investigate Christine O’Donnell, and they did that all within one week after the time when she won her primary election, and they continued this steady drumbeat against her and called her a criminal. Well, guess what, the U.S. attorney four weeks ago sent me a letter as her attorney and said they had reviewed the charges and were dismissing the complaint, closing the file against Christine O’Donnell. So, clearly these were false allegations that CREW made.”

The problem is bigger than CREW, Mitchell said, adding that it stretches to other organizations such as Media Matters, a group that monitors conservative media, and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

“One of our allegations in the complaint that we filed with the IRS against CREW — and I think the same thing could be said about the Center for American Progress, the same thing could be said about Media Matters — is that they are all operating for the private benefit of the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates and office holders and they are not serving what the IRS requires for such groups which is to serve a public benefit and public purpose,” she said.

If the IRS allows CREW to continue to hold tax-exempt status, Mitchell said, “I don’t know how the IRS can ever jerk somebody else’s tax status again.”

“They should not continue to masquerade as a charitable organization when they are really just front groups for the Democratic Party,” she said.

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