... from the Campaign Trail ...
AG Candidate Seeks to Revoke Debate Sponsor's Tax Exemption
Steve Fournier, 860 794 6718
(Hartford, 10/10/10) Green Party Candidate for Attorney General Stephen Fournier lodged a complaint today with the IRS, challenging the tax-exempt status of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut Education Fund. The candidate was excluded by the League from participation in any debate it might sponsor for attorney general candidates, and Fournier claims that his exclusion violates the federal prohibition on political activity by organizations that accept tax-exempt contributions.
The League applies what it calls "Debate Criteria and Vetting Standards" to decide which candidates may and may not participate in debates. Fournier met the League's first requirement, ballot access. He will appear on the Green Party ballot line and on the Independent Party line. The candidate couldn't satisfy the other two criteria, which the League describes as "Evidence of Campaign Being Waged" (in the form of campaign headquarters, dedicated phone, campaign manager, volunteers or paid employees) and "Evidence of Financial Support. "
"The so-called vetting criteria are a sham, in that all of them hinge on a single factor: money," Fournier argues. "Campaign manager, headquarters, dedicated telephone--all depend on money. Yard signs and distribution of campaign literature depend on money. Paid staff are acceptable in place of volunteers, and money talks here, too . . . The application of these illogical, unfair and biased criteria means that, unless a candidate is determined to raise and spend what most voters would consider a large amount of money, the candidate will be deemed unsuitable for inclusion. " Fournier's complaint asks the government to find that his exclusion was not based on reasonable criteria but was intended to impede his candidacy.
Under the Internal Revenue Code, tax-exempt organizations are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.
"To say that a candidate must be excluded because of an inability or unwillingness to raise money is arbitrary and illogical. " says the candidate. "There is no logical connection between the seriousness of a candidacy and the size of a candidate's treasury . . . (A)djudging a poorly-funded candidate unsuitable for inclusion is defamatory and has the effect of favoring candidates with money. "
In filing his complaint, Fournier anticipates a debate that might not happen. "The damage is done," he says. "The exclusion is chilling. When the League proclaims me a sure loser, it tells possible volunteers and supporters that their efforts will come to nothing. Nobody wants to fight a losing battle. The League should reconsider its decision. "