Senate GOP wants green group's tax exempt status revoked

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The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) wants federal officials to revoke an environmental group’s tax-exempt status over a political advertising campaign that the GOP group says violates the tax code.

The Republican group filed an IRS complaint against the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), saying the green organization’s campaign against Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkNBA pulls All-Star Game from NC over bathroom law GOP groups scale back support for Sen. Johnson Top GOP senator: Trump will have little effect on Senate races MORE (R-Ill.) is illegal.

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The NRDC is organized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, prohibited from political activity.

“This ad, the latest in a string of multi-million dollar political activities, leaves no doubt that NRDC has forfeited its 501(c)(3) status,” the GOP group wrote in its complaint.

“The IRS should revoke NRDC’s tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) immediately and investigate the source of contributions used to fund these ads. Any donors who earmarked their contributions for this ad and others like it and who have taken correspondent tax deductions should be prosecuted for tax fraud to the fullest extent of the law.”

The complaint goes on to say that “NRDC’s donors include a Who’s Who of liberal billionaires and Hollywood elites,” and it is “perverse and indefensible” for the group to let those individuals take tax deductions for political activity.

The NRSC tied the ads to Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), the front-runner for the Democratic nomination to take on Kirk, who is a top target in 2016.

“It is a troubling sign that Tammy Duckworth’s special interest friends have to break the law in order to help her campaign,” said Andrea Bozek, the group’s spokeswoman.

At issue is a major campaign the NRDC launched against Kirk, one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in the Senate.

It criticizes Kirk for voting against the Obama administration’s signature climate rule, arguing that his vote is “out of line with the issues he has historically championed in the past and are important to the people of Illinois he’s supposed to represent.”

While the campaign does not specifically ask its audience to vote against Kirk, the Republican group argues that it went too far.

Kevin Artl, a spokesman for Kirk’s campaign, defended the senator’s environmental record, saying he’s worked to reduce greenhouse gases, air pollution and water pollution in the Great Lakes.

“The recent partisan attack ads by DC special interest groups, the same groups that once praised Sen. Kirk’s work to protect the environment, are not only false but driven by partisan politics and anonymous donors,” he said.

Henry Henderson, Midwest director for the NRDC, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the ads are purely educational.

“This is not a political ad,” he told the newspaper. “This is a public issue and public education ad.”

The NRDC’s campaign followed major campaigns by the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club against Kirk.