IRS Grants Project Veritas Tax-Exempt Status

Project Veritas, a group founded by controversial conservative activist James O'Keefe, has been granted 501(c)(3) status, the New York Times reports.

According to documents reviewed by the Chronicle of Philanthropy through a Freedom of Information Act request, O'Keefe described the mission of Project Veritas as "investigat[ing] and expos[ing] corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society." The organization is best known for a series of hidden camera operations that contributed directly to the downfall of community organizing group ACORN and two senior executives at NPR. In addition, O'Keefe and three other men were charged last year with entering the offices of Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) with the purpose of committing a felony; they pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

Charities are prohibited from participating in lobbying or political campaigns, but in response to a question posed by the IRS, O'Keefe maintained that Project Veritas had no plans to lobby on behalf of specific legislation. After reviewing the organization's Web site, nonprofit law expert Jeffrey S. Tenenbaum agreed that the group was unlikely to run afoul of any IRS regulations.

"Project Veritas's leading stories have a certain direction in which they lean, and they could all be used by this organization and others for lobbying campaigns or even political campaign activities," Tenenbaum told the Times. "But in and of themselves, the things I saw on the Web site don't do that."

Stephanie Strom. "Conservative Group Wins Nonprofit Status From I.R.S.." New York Times 05/26/2011.