Lack of Bright Line IRS Nonprofit Rules Provide Free Trips for Members of Congress
Posted at 4:41 p.m. on May 28, 2013
Members of Congress have benefited from the lack of bright line IRS rules for the close and intertwining relationships between 501(c)(3) nonprofits and their 501(c)(4) lobbying arms. There is a distinction but not much difference.
Five members of Congress have just returned from a free trip to Israel paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), an IRS Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit. AIEF’s website states it is “affiliated with AIPAC, America’s pro-Israel lobby.” The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is an IRS Section 501(c)(4) organization. AIPAC spent $2,761,388 on lobbying in 2012. Senate and House rules state members may not accept gifts of free travel from a lobbyist or entity that retains or employs registered lobbyists.
AIEF gives grants to AIPAC for “select educational programs” and also funds educational seminars to Israel for members of Congress and “other political influentials.” “These AIEF-sponsored trips help educate political leaders and influentials about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship through firsthand experiences in Israel, briefings by experts on Middle East affairs, and meetings with Israeli political elite.”
Since 2000, The American Israel Education Foundation and AIPAC have spent more than $4.8 million providing trips to members, most to Israel. There is no disclosure of who provides the funds to AIEF.
Making the April 29 to May 5 trip were Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., $11,013, Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., $11,139, Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., $11,205, Ed Royce, R-Calif., $11,042, and Brad Sherman, D-Calif., $11,153. Rep. Kay Granger was listed as an invitee, but she has not filed a travel report.
View all privately paid member travel on Political MoneyLine’s private travel database.
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