The Citizens United case opened up a whole new way of giving for nonprofit corporations, but there are still some lines that can’t be crossed.
Last July, the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC “Restore Our Future” accepted a check for $100,000 from the Rod and Leslie Aycox Foundation, a nonprofit with the same tax status as a charity or hospital. That’s a no-no according to the Internal Revenue Service.
The 501(c)(3) corporation was clearly in violation of tax law, according to the IRS, which states these organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign.”
So the foundation faced the wrath of the IRS, but the super PAC?
“The liability is all on the donor side … but there is no legal exposure for the recipient,” said campaign lawyer Kenneth Gross.
In February, the foundation, based in Alpharetta, Ga., remedied the situation.
In the newest filing to the Federal Election Commission, Restore Our Future refunded the full $100,000 to the foundation.
“The foundation requested a contribution refund, and when they did so, we promptly complied with their request,” said Charlie Spies, the treasurer of Restore Our Future.
The $100,000 contribution was returned to the foundation in February. That same month, Rod Aycox personally made a contribution to the pro-Romney super PAC of $100,000.
While the Aycox Foundation was liable for the contribution, Restore Our Future was never at risk, said Paul Ryan at the Campaign Legal Center.
“That’s a tax problem, not a campaign finance problem,” Ryan said. “Super PACs are governed by federal campaign finance law. The law has evolved to the point where super PACs can take money from any source,” except foreign nationals.
In addition to the $100,000 to Restore Our Future, Aycox has given $16,900 to other candidates this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This includes $5,000 to David Dewhurst, the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas, and various congressional candidates both in his home state of Georgia and around the country. His wife, Leslie Aycox, has also given nearly $15,000 to candidates, CRP shows.
According to Reuters, Aycox’s Select Management Resources operates title-lending stores under various names around the country, including the well-known LoanMax.
Title loans have been vilified by consumer advocates for offering extremely high interest rates and preying on the poor. With such a loan, the borrower turns over his car title for a loan, usually at a very high interest rate. The interest rate is based on the value of the car. Some states cap it at 36 percent, but the average interest is 300 percent, according to the Consumer Federation of America. If the borrow cannot repay the loan and interest, the lender has the legal right to repossess the car.
The Rod and Leslie Aycox Foundation was started by Aycox and his wife in late 2008. Their most recent available tax filing, from 2009, shows they gave to organizations ranging from the Mayo Clinic to the NAACP to the Blood of the Lamb Deliverance Church. In total, the foundation gave $478,000 in 2009.
Aycox could not be reached for comment.
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