Church's Link to PAC in Miss. GOP Race Raises IRS Alert

Tuesday, 17 Jun 2014 10:37 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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A church in Mississippi may face an Internal Revenue Service investigation after it was linked to a full-page newspaper ad urging readers to vote for Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, The New York Times reported.

The ad targeting the June 3 GOP primary was placed in the Mississippi Link, a weekly aimed at black readers in Jackson, and was paid for by a political action committee, All Citizens for Mississippi.

However, the PAC shares the same address as the New Horizon Church International, and it names Jacqueline Vann, the church's chief financial officer, as its treasurer, according to the Times.

Now Michael Toner, a partner at the Wiley Rein law firm and a former Federal Election Commission chairman, told the Times that if could be "potentially problematic" for the church if it helped pay for the ad.

"The people who are associated with churches, you can be involved in politics, but need to do so in your personal capacity," Toner said. "That's the dividing line. Is it their personal capacity?"

The concern for the church is that it could lose its tax-exempt status as an IRS-approved charity if it took part in a political campaign, according to the Times, noting that the advertisement appeared around the same time as the PAC registered with the FEC.

The ad, with a big picture of a smiling Cochran on it, called on Democrats to cross over and vote in the Republican primary "to ensure our community's interest is heard."

Cochran faces a runoff election against tea party conservative and state Sen. Chris McDaniel on June 24.

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