The most punchable face in right wing politics is on the hook for years of unpaid taxes after the IRS revoked nonprofit status for his National Policy Institute.
But Richard Spencer didn’t run afoul of the government for his Nazi salutes or his calls for kinder, gentler ethnic cleansing to make America a white nation. Nor can he plead that his overt electioneering on behalf of Trump, which ran afoul of 501(c)(3) rules against partisan political activity, has brought down a censorious liberal hand, though he probably will anyway.
Instead, Spencer simply failed to file taxes for the white nationalist organization after he took over in 2011. The Internal Revenue Service seems to have contributed to his error by misclassifying the National Policy Institute as an organization that was not required to file annual 990 forms, as most charitable entities must.
But that doesn’t absolve Spencer, the LA Times reports, because ignorance is not an excuse.
“They should have known that they should have been filing,” said Philip T. Hackney, a law professor at Louisiana State University who formerly worked for the IRS, specializing in nonprofits. “It’s very clear under the law that if you don’t file for three years, you lose your status.”
The IRS wasn’t the only government agency to alter the Institute’s status this year. In fact, the LA Times seems to have stirred state regulators into action by asking questions about Spencer’s registration there:
(A)s of February, a database maintained by the Virginia Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs had listed the National Policy Institute as “not authorized to solicit in Virginia.”
“They had sent in a registration form to us years ago, but it was incomplete and we requested additional information,” Elaine Lidholm, a spokeswoman for the agency, wrote in an email to The Times last week. “We never heard back from them.”
When The Times requested information about Spencer’s group, Virginia charity regulators removed the entry for the National Policy Institute from their public database of nonprofits and began a review, which remained active as of Monday.
Spencer prides himself on being genetically superior to other races, but admits he is bad with paperwork. He also claims that his “bookkeeper” has properly filled out all the state forms, thank you very much, though he won’t say who that person is.
While they exist on all sides of the American political scene, sketchy political nonprofits are a very common contrivance on the right. In a very real sense, conservatives manufactured the IRS controversy of 2013 in order to intimidate the agency against enforcement of laws prohibiting political nonprofits. The strategy has worked brilliantly: no matter how much evidence of fraud one finds in this form of right wing fundraising, the IRS never takes action.
So it’s not surprising that Richard Spencer might take full advantage of that regulatory environment — and also very unlikely that the government is punishing his speech. Rather, this story is about proverbial chickens that have finally come home to roost.
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