The American Accountability Foundation (AAF), a non-profit organization focusing on public accountability, is currently under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This surprising turn of events follows the AAF’s detailed scrutiny of certain individuals nominated by President Joe Biden.
As a result of this in-depth analysis, multiple nominees chosen by the President chose to withdraw their candidacy.
The IRS’s actions include a request for submission of AAF’s internal financial data, as well as an array of communications. This encompasses documents such as meeting minutes, various publications, and newsletters.
This move by the IRS occurs on the heels of AAF’s aggressive pursuit of transparency in the Biden administration’s nomination process.
The AAF, which earned its tax-exempt status from the IRS in August 2021, has voiced concerns that this investigation may not be entirely unprejudiced. They’ve suggested that this could be a dismissive response to their recent reporting on several of the President’s pending nominees, who subsequently withdrew before any official confirmation could take place.
Among the multiple nominees whom the AAF investigated included Gigi Sohn, President Biden’s nominee for the FCC chair role.
Sohn had earlier made political contributions to several Democratic Senators of Commerce, with amounts varying from $550 to Senator Raphael Warnock, $200 to Senator Michael Bennett, along with $100 each to Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and John Fetterman respectively.
In response to these contributions, the AAF extended its criticism and took decisive action. It sent a letter urging the Democratic Senators who received funding from Sohn to recuse themselves from voting on her nomination. The AAF additionally requested Sohn herself to withdraw her nomination.
The AAF was particularly vocal in their censure of Sohn’s comments regarding Fox News. Sohn had previously remarked on the detrimental impact she felt Fox News had exerted on American democracy in the year 2020.
AAF’s counteraction was swift, and they invested heavily in billboards and advertising campaigns aimed at persuading the public that Sohn was unfit to be FCC Chair.
The AAF’s efforts to keep public figures accountable were not limited to Sohn. They also took issue with Ann Carlson, the nominee for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Carlson made a series of ‘radical’ comments on energy and climate, which included criticizing Americans’ ‘love for their cars and cheap gas’. After widespread disapproval, Carlson’s nomination was subsequently withdrawn by the White House.
AAF’s interventions have extended beyond these two instances. According to its website, the organization claims to have played a decisive role in the withdrawal of Phillip Washington, nominated by Biden for a key position in the Federal Aviation Administration.
It appears the AAF has often found itself in the crosshairs of Democratic agendas. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, for example, apparently attempted to sway the agency to launch an investigation into conservative organization Turning Point USA. Documents acquired by the AAF in November 2022 suggest as much.
As a part of this attempt, Whitehouse advocated for the IRS to consider revoking Turning Point USA’s tax-exempt status. This was on the grounds of the organization’s large scale event which did not observe mask mandates and social distancing measures during the pandemic. Whitehouse also targeted AAF’s ally, Conservative Partnership Institute, in a letter to the IRS concerning its tax-exempt status.
The avowed objective of this investigation by the IRS is to confirm that the AAF ‘operates in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.’ This is stipulated in the official notice obtained from the IRS, but there seems to be more to it than meets the eye.
During the Obama administration, some IRS officials were accused of exercising partiality when analyzing the tax-exempt status of organizations. Lois Lerner, a high-ranking IRS official, was involved in an incident where certain conservative groups were selectively audited.
Groups containing terms such as ‘tea party’, ‘patriot’, or ‘9/12’ in their names were allegedly targeted for audits. These were closely connected with conservative movements, thus suggesting possible systemic bias. This historical precedent raises concerning questions in light of the current investigation into the AAF’s activities.
Amid these ongoing developments, AAF’s work maintains its focus on accountability and scrutinization of public office nominations. The situation with the IRS investigation remains fluid. However, it is crucial to ensure fairness at every stage. Transparency and objectivity should be upheld to ensure the integrity of the democratic system, irrespective of the outcome of the investigation.