FACT Releases Worst Ethics Violators of 2019, Maine 501(c)(4) Tops the List
Ethics Watchdog Says Maine Momentum’s Political Activities
Has Violated Federal Law
Washington, D.C.—December 17, 2019— The non-partisan ethics watchdog group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), today, released its annual worst ethics violators of 2019. This year’s list includes illegal campaigning, conflicts of interest, quid pro quo schemes, and forgery of documents. The top violator, however, is Maine Momentum for operating as a political organization contrary to its tax status as a 501(c)(4) organization.
In early October, FACT asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate Maine Momentum for violating federal law governing tax-exempt 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations. A consistent pattern of activities and public admissions by Maine Momentum indicated that instead of promoting the social welfare of the general public, the group has instead been operating for the substantial private benefit of the Maine Democratic Party and Maine’s 2020 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. FACT maintains that until the IRS investigates the unlawful activities of Maine Momentum, their dubious actions will only worsen.
“Maine Momentum’s actions and statements regarding the 2020 U.S. Senate contest in Maine indicate that the group clearly exists for a partisan political purpose, rather than acting as a true ‘social welfare’ organization that merits a tax-exempt status,” said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust. “The citizens of Maine deserve better, and FACT is hopeful that action will be taken to thoroughly investigate Maine Momentum and to impose all appropriate punishments against them,” added Arnold.
FACT’s other worst ethics violators of 2019 include:
Senator Gary Peters’ Coordination of Illegal Ads with Outside Organizations. In December, FACT asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), his re-election campaign committee, Peters for Michigan, and VoteVets.Org Action Fund (a 501 (c)(4) political action committee) for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act. Evidence demonstrates that Peters has been using his campaign website to illegally coordinate with outside organizations that support his candidacy. By posting detailed content for ads, including messaging, photos, and b-roll videos, along with instructions for the markets in which to run the ads, Peters has intentionally been colluding with outside groups to run ads on his behalf. One such group, VoteVets.Org Action Fund, has spent at least $1,450,000 to run ads for Peters, participating in the scheme and contributing to his campaign.
Representative Matt Cartwright’s Sponsorship of Legislation with Conflict of Interest. In September, FACT filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA) for violating House conflict of interest rules. The complaint maintains that Cartwright improperly sponsored legislation that would require commercial truck drivers to purchase insurance liability coverage at a 600% hike from the current amount. Notably, Cartwright was previously an attorney with a Pennsylvania law firm that specializes in personal injury cases involving commercial trucks and advertises itself as “the nation’s leading truck accident team.” Cartwright’s wife, Marion Munley, is currently a partner with that firm, and both Cartwright and his wife have “profit-sharing agreements with Munley Law, together valued between $2 million and $10 million.” The many facts in this case show Cartwright could not have acted impartially when sponsoring legislation and impugns the integrity of government action.
15 Lawmakers’ Attempt to Coerce Private Company with Promise of Legislative Action. In August, FACT asked the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to investigate fifteen Members of Congress for their involvement in an apparent quid pro quo offer to a private company. According to FACT’s complaint, the Members all signed a letter to the Chairman and CEO of Red Rock Resorts, Inc. urging him to allow company employees to “form a union and collectively bargain.” However, the letter then referenced an unrelated, pending bill in Congress that would change a provision of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act governing building improvements. Ironically, last December Red Rock Resorts signed a letter to Congress requesting that this very provision, one that would financially benefit the company, be changed. In this instance, the Members clearly used pending legislation before the House to attempt to coerce a private citizen’s behavior in a prohibited quid pro quo offer.
Tax-Exempt Organization’s Support of Former GA Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams. In March, FACT filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against Fair Fight Action, Inc. for funding former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ political activities in violation of federal law. Though registered as a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, Fair Fight Action served as the primary arm of Stacey Abrams’ political operation and efforts. Shortly after Abrams lost a close 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia that she blamed on “voter suppression” and other voting irregularities, Fair Fight Action assumed the Abrams campaign’s legal challenges to Georgia’s electoral process and filed a federal lawsuit. Since that time, the organization has blatantly demonstrated through its leadership, purpose, and activities that its primary mission is to advance Abrams’ political career. In buying social media ads and commercial airtime for Abrams, hosting two dozen watch parties showcasing her speaking, and accepting donations from a “Stacey Abrams Fundraiser,” Fair Fight Action acted in clear violation of the requirement that a social welfare organization serve general community purposes rather than provide a private benefit to an individual or political group.
This year’s honorable mention award goes to the Foundation for Moral Law and U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama, Roy Moore.
Non-Profit Founded by U.S. Senate Candidate Roy Moore’s Forgery of Documents. In July, FACT asked the Maryland Office of the Secretary of State for an investigation related to the Foundation for Moral Law (FML), a non-profit organization founded by Alabama U.S. Senate candidate, Roy Moore. Numerous documents publicly filed by FML appeared to contain irregularities with their execution and notarization-- all of which were purported to be notarized by the same Maryland notary who Moore later said he had never met, despite the fact his signature was one that was supposedly notarized. FACT requested that the Maryland Office of Secretary of State investigate the irregularities in the execution and notarization of the documents and impose any necessary penalties on the individuals involved in the misconduct.
FACT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas. For more on FACT, visit: http://www.factdc.org/.