Arizona Capitol

Atheists at Secular Coalition for Arizona File IRS Complaint Over Center for Arizona Policy's Lobbying

There's a source to the religulous bills in the Arizona Legislature every year, and that source is called the Center for Arizona Policy.

The atheists over at the Secular Coalition for Arizona have a problem with that, but it -- and other groups -- want Uncle Sam to see if there's a problem with their books.

Secular Coalition for Arizona filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service this week, claiming the Center for Arizona Policy is a lobbying organization, not the tax-exempt charity organization it tells the IRS it is.

It's not hard to believe the claim against the Center for Arizona Policy, considering they put out a press release praising Kyrsten Sinema's statement that the group is the "most powerful lobby at the Capitol.

The group touts that more than 100 of its supported bills have been passed into law over the years, including 13 this year. Three of those were abortion-related, and they're also the ones behind the "religious opt-out" to contraception bill.

The question the Secular Coalition for Arizona and other groups want to find out is whether the Center for Arizona Policy qualifies as a 501(c)(3) organization -- as it claims to be -- or if it's really a 501(c)(4).

To avoid the tax-law crap as much as possible, the "3" is tax-exempt, while donations to the "4" are not.

"It concerns us that this religious lobby institution is able to receive tax-exempt donations, which it seems to be using almost exclusively to work on lobbying activities," Secular Coalition for Arizona executive director Seráh Blain says. "We just want the IRS to take a look at the Center for Arizona Policy to make sure this isn't a case of religious preference and that CAP isn't improperly soliciting and spending tax-exempt donations in a way that violates tax law."

The Center for Arizona Policy pulled in nearly $2 million in 2010 -- the most recent IRS filing available for the group -- and complaints against the group point to "deceptive tax reporting and business practices" after reviewing their IRS forms.

"Taxpayers are not supposed to be forced to subsidize political lobbying," Blain says. "I'm not a tax lawyer, but it appears to us that Center for Arizona Policy is operating as a taxpayer subsidized lobbying organization -- so they're using money that should belong to all Arizonans in order to inject their narrow religious ideology into public policy. This is simply wrong, and we're asking the IRS to check into it."

Center for Arizona Policy detractors have put up a website with all the documentation and explanations about their complaint, which was also signed by No Longer Silent, Clergy for Justice -- a more lefty group composed of Christian clergy.

Center for Arizona Policy's a powerhouse, so it wouldn't be surprising to see this complaint go nowhere. Kudos to the little guy, though.