Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says a nonprofit Islamic advocacy group broke the law by calling for him to drop out of the presidential race.
“The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a public press conference demanding that I withdraw from the presidential race,” Carson said in an email to supporters Saturday.
“Here’s the catch – CAIR is a tax-exempt nonprofit, and the IRS rules explicitly prohibit such groups from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of – or in opposition to – a candidate,” the email continues.
Carson said he is demanding the IRS take action against the group and started an online petition to remove CAIR’s tax-exempt status.
A spokesman for CAIR called for Carson to drop out of the presidential race after the GOP candidate said a Muslim should not be elected president.
CAIR is a 501(c)(3) group with tax-exempt status, according to the group’s website.
The group previously lost its tax-exempt status in 2011 for not filing tax returns for three years in a row, but regained it the next year.
“We find it interesting that Dr. Carson seeks to use a federal government agency to silence his critics and wonder if that tactic would be used to suppress First Amendment freedoms should he become president,” CAIR said in response to Carson.
“CAIR is not in violation of any IRS regulation in that we did not ‘participate in’ or ‘intervene in’ any political campaign. We, as mandated by our mission as a civil rights organization, merely expressed the opinion of our community that a candidate whose views violate Article VI of the Constitution is unfit for public office.”
CAIR says its mission is to “enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”
Critics claim the group has ties to terrorism, after the nonprofit was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2007 trial of the Holy Land Foundation, which was convicted of supporting the terrorist group Hamas in 2009.
- Updated at 9:18 p.m.