nel prohibited corporate money into Texas politics? Was the author of that plan U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay gressional lines so that more Republicans would be elected? Those who track campaign money believe that the LEAA represents a troubling trend. “LEAA is one of a new breed of shadowy front groups that is willing to serve as a corporate money conduit and attack dog to benefit GOP candidates,” says Craig McDonald of the public policy organization Texans for Public Justice. “Its ‘issue ads’ are a mere hoax. When GOP candidates need a political attack from a so-called law-andorder group, they appear to funnel money to the LEAA to carry it out. ” What’s beyond dispute is the result of Greg Abbott’s ascension to attorney general. Without the attorney general’s approval, DeLay never would have been able to push through his redistricting plan. It was Abbott who was the first to rule that the state could pursue mid-decade congressional redistricting. This November, if Republicans do as well as expected, the GOP could lock in their controlling majority in the House of Representatives for years to come. 0 ne day in late May, I decided to pay the LEAA a visit, so I drove less than 20 minutes from my office in Washington, D.C., to the edge of the 1-495 beltway around the capital. I parked my car in a lot next to a northern Virginia office building filled with medical, accounting, and employment firmsand the headquarters of the LEAA, an organization that bills itself as “the nation’s largest non-profit, non-partisan coalition of law enforcement personnel, crime victims, and concerned citizens.” I took the elevator to the LEAA’s suite 421, consisting of a handful of cramped offices. By this point, I had already called the headquarters and sent a fax, on both occasions, with the same request. What I wanted was the LEANs Form 990s. These publicly available tax documents, while not naming contributors, list how much the organization spends and where the money goes. By law, one can show up in person at the IRS-registered address of any non-profit group and simply ask for its Form 990. The law requires the group to provide a copy “generally” on the “day of the request?’ There are even minor fines for not doing so. The receptionist said that LEAA Operations Director Ted Deeds was not in. I showed her a copy of IRS regulations. I pointed out that now I was here in person, and was legally entitled to walk away with the form. There was another person in the office, who identified himself as the webmaster of www.leaa.org . While I waited, he went to call Deeds. He returned and told me “Mr. Deeds would honor my request.” When I pressed for more information, he said that there was no more. On June 4, I sent Deeds an e-mail requesting the same information, which I copied to the IRS Media Relations Specialist for northern Virginia, James C. Dupree. In keep “The LEAA’s mission appears to have expanded since its early days, as a Republican election machine controlled from Washington, D.C., has increasingly come to rely on ‘issue’ ads:’ ing with IRS policy, regional spokesman Dupree declined to say what, if anything, he or the IRS did with my request. To ensure that the IRS got it, I sent a letter of complaint to the IRS enforcement office for non-profit groups, which is based in Dallas, Texas, on July 1. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but a researcher at the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit watchdog Public Citizen had already complained in writing about the LEAA to the same IRS office on May 14. \(Public Citizen eventually obtained some of the LEAA’s older Form 990s from At press time, the fines that could conceivably be levied against Chief Operating Officer Ted Deeds for ignoring two separate and ongoing requests for the LEANs 990 are more than $3,600, if the IRS were to enforce the law. “Responsible persons of a tax exempt organization who fail to provide the documents as required may be subject to a penalty of $20 a day for as long as the failure continues,” reads the tough language on the IRS website. “There is a maximum penalty of $10,000 for each failure to provide a copy of an annual information return?’ Four grand is no more than petty cash for a multi-million dollar non-profit like the LEAA, which had a budget in 2001 of nearly $5 million, according to a Form 990 obtained by Public Citizen. But $3,600 is not necessarily an insignificant amount for Ted Deeds, who is the official responsible, and who earned $82,500 operating the LEAA in 2001, according to the same form 990. What Deeds has yet to provide to either the Observer or Public Citizen is the LEAA Form 990 for 2002. This is just one of the reasons why, according to Taylor Lincoln, a senior researcher at Public Citizen, the LEAA is the worst of its breed. Lately, Public Citizen and Lincoln have been collecting data on 30-odd non-profit groups involved in political campaigns, asking each one for copies of their Form 990s. “[The LEAA] are the only group which has not abided by its obligation to provide the form?’ said Lincoln. “A social welfare organization” like the LEAA is not supposed to be involved in politics, at least not full-time, according to the IRS website. “[A] social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.” Moreover, “any expenditure it makes for political activities may be subject to tax.” One way to tell whether an activity is “primary” is how much the group spends on it. The LEAA spent only $43,050 7/30/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER S
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