As many readers know, the issue of how the Humane Society of the United States continues to maintain its 501(c) 3 tax-exempt status is one I have found continually perplexing. After further review of the HSUS tax filings, I have a new question.
According to the IRS website, “Whether an organization’s attempts to influence legislation, i.e., lobbying, constitute a substantial part of its overall activities is determined on the basis of all the pertinent facts and circumstances in each case. The IRS considers a variety of factors, including the time devoted (by both compensated and volunteer workers) and the expenditures devoted by the organization to the activity, when determining whether the lobbying activity is substantial.”
Yet, when looking at the 2007 IRS 990 forms filed by the HSUS, I noticed the following information in the statement of Lobbying Activity by Non-Electing Charities:
The question for this section reads: During the year, did the organization attempt to influence national, state or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum, through the use of (a) Volunteers (b) Paid staff or management. The response to both sections was No. This was the response in 2007 as well as in 2006 & 2005 despite the following examples:
- May 8 2007 HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, testified before Congress to “urge the Congress to pass legislation” as stated in his HSUS blog Humane Nation, introducing himself as representing the Humane Society of the United State and submitting a 52 page report including his testimony and supporting documentation
- November 8, 2005 HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle testified before Congress on the issue of the Pet Animal Welfare Statute
- On the Ballot Initiative section of the HSUS website, one may access a list of Ballot Initiatives where HSUS claims central involvement extending from 1990 through 2008
- On the Enacted and Vetoed State Legislation section of the HSUS website, the following statement is found, “The Government Affairs section of the Humane Society of the United States tracks, reviews, drafts, comments, lobbies and testifies on legislation that impacts animals in almost every state. We also keep a record of certain priority legislation on this website so citizens can take action.” This page includes the lists of Enacted and Vetoed Legislation from 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008.
All of the above cited items could not have occurred without the involvement of paid and/or volunteer personnel. All were claimed under the auspices of the Humane Society of the United States, not the Humane Society Legislative fund or one of the other HSUS sub-entities.
It appears that these activities continue, as was observed by the investigative team who attended a Georgia state HSUS meeting and found it to be primarily involved in activist plans and lobbying, an assessment agreed with by HSUS Georgia State director Cheryl McAuliffe who also acknowledged that this forms the majority of her work-related activity and that all budgeting is controlled from the HSUS Washington headquarters. It is reasonable to believe significantly greater volunteer involvement, especially when one considers emails such as this one being sent on the behalf of the HSUS:
From: Jordan Matyas [mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, April 06, 2009 2:51 PM
To: Jordan Matyas
Subject: Legislative Update from Springfield
It has been a very busy few months at Illinois’ state capitol. Because of your help, we are having a great year in Springfield. The summaries below provide a blurb about each bill – for more information on any particular legislation, feel free to contact me. Thanks so much to all of you for your phone calls and emails to legislators – but remember the fight is not over! (See here for remainder)
If the HSUS has not accounted for the activities of paid employees and volunteers, and this lack of accounting causes the HSUS to fail the “Substantial Part of Activities” standard set by the IRS, the HSUS could be subject to back-taxes on the $152 million in gross receipts for 2007 alone. Considering the increase in lobbying activities in 2008 and 2009, will the HSUS continue to claim that there is no activity by either volunteers or paid personnel that is occurs under the auspices of the HSUS? Will the HSUS executive explicitly reference the sub-entity that they are representing, as Patricia Forkan did in 2006, without invoking the authority of the HSUS?
Will the HSUS pay taxes on its 2008 filing or 2009?
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