Abuse of IRS tax-exemption status by fractivist special interests is rampant as Heinz Endowments funding of Damascus Citizens demonstrates.
There is, seemingly, no end to the abuse of tax-exemption rules by special interest funders of fractivism and their shill organizations. The extent to which the entire system of tax-exemption has been totally corrupted is evident with numerous foundations engaging in political activity under the cover of being supposed charities and we’ve discussed many of them here, but a new instance has come to light that perfectly illustrates the problem; the Heinz Endowments funding of the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability for “outreach in shale impacted communities.”
Damascus is where I grew up on the family farm my great-grandfather established well over a hundred years ago. My son and his wife and my two brothers continue to live there with one of them raising beef today on the 200 or so acres involved. I own a small part of myself. I graduated from Damascus High School decades ago and my ancestry in the neighborhood goes back to the late 1700s. Damascus is what I call home.
Unfortunately, though, the very name Damascus has been co-opted by second-home owners from Manhattan and environs and is now more commonly associated with a radical group of these folks known as the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, which was formed for the specific purpose of fighting the natural gas development real Damascus citizens need to economically prosper and save their land for future generations.
Damascus Citizens doesn’t list its board members on its website, but they’re available from its latest IRS return for 2014 and include eight individuals, among whom are a Broadway architect, a Manhattan “conceptual creative” who frequently comments here (our friend UnreceiveDogma), a transplanted Hoboken potter, a former fund-raiser for the New York Public Library who lives on Long Island, a Manhattan law professor, a New York City sculptor, a Big Apple silk artist and, of course, Barbara Arrindell, a stained and leaded glass artist who “founded an artist-owned and run cooperative gallery” in Milford, Pennsylvania. None of them have any historic connection to Damascus, its people or their needs, having made their fame and fortunes, so to speak, elsewhere before ever adopting the moniker of “Damascus Citizens.”
The group freely acknowledges, in its 990 return, that its mission includes “keeping fracking out of the Delaware River Basin.” That has hardly limited its political advocacy, though. It is frequently involved in fighting oil and gas projects in other watersheds and states and that’s where the Heinz Endowments comes into the picture. The Heinz Endowments, the funder of so many fractivist activites (e.g., PennFuture, the Clean Air Council, Delaware Povertykeeper, PennEnvironment, EarthJustice, Earthworks, et al) in fact, has given Damascus Citizens some $200,000:
That $175,000 in 2014 for “outreach in shale impacted communities” represents 73% of Damascus Citizens revenue for that year, meaning the latter is little more than a shill group for the latter and what has it done for the money? Well, it looks like it’s been lobbying as evidenced by this joint call from 2014 when it, together with Berks Gas Truth and several other entities, issued this breathless call for action opposing adoption of an environmental win-win piece of legislation allowing AMD to be used for hydraulic fracturing:
URGENT – Call your Senator tomorrow morning! Oppose SB411, the Acid Mine Drainage in Fracking Bill.
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP!
- We need to FLOOD our senators’ offices with calls starting first thing on Monday! The bill could go to the floor as early as 1 p.m.! Find your senator’s contact information here!
- Facebook and Twitter users, we have started a Thunderclap directed at the PA Senate that will be delivered at noon tomorrow. A Thunderclap is a message that is posted at an appointed time from a lot of FB and Twitter accounts. When you sign up to participate, you are granting permission to have the message I’ve written posted at noon from your account – one message posted once. The more people we get, the louder the noise we make! Sign up here!
- Facebook users, change your profile picture to the one I’m using for the next day. Find my profile here! It’s called a Facebook march. Believe me, Senators are on FB and notice when the same profile picture shows up over and over again in their news feed! You’ll also find memes you can share on my profile page or the event page.
- Sign and share a petition started by Food & Water Watch!
- Share this information with all your friends and ask them to call their senators too! As of the latest vote count I received, there were TWO confirmed NO votes and they weren’t from our local senators.
This is an emergency.
Lobbying is defined by IRS as follows:
An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.
Pretty clear, isn’t it? That isn’t all, though. Damascus Citizens also, during 2014, took a big interest in New Jersey, making this call on its own website:
Tell your NJ State Senator to Ban Frack Waste!
October 21, 2014
Download our template letter for sending to your NJ State Senator
The materials presented here were developed by our colleagues in the Delaware RiverKeeper Network.
On August 11, Governor Christie officially vetoed the Frack Waste Ban Bill. This legislation (Senate Bill 1041) would have prohibited the treatment and discharge of toxic and radioactive frack waste in our state. It would also have prevented polluted fracked drill cuttings from being dumped in our landfills and liquid waste from being sprayed on roads as a de-icer or dust suppressant as they allow in Pennsylvania and New York.
The Frack Waste Ban Bill has been re-introduced and will be voted on again soon. With enough votes, the governor’s veto will be overriden and we will have the bill’s protections in place. The original frack waste bill passed the senate by an almost unanimous vote (32-5). If all the Senators who voted for it now vote for the override, this legislation will become law.
YOU have the power to make this happen. Please take a minute to send a letter to your Senator today. Gas companies have already dumped toxic and radioactive frack waste in New Jersey and without the frack waste ban, there’s nothing to stop them from continuing to do so. Your Senator’s support is vital to protect our public health, our communities and water supplies from this dangerous pollution.
The entire mission of Damascus Citizens is, of course, political and there’s no one who doesn’t know it. So, if not properly registered as a 501(c)4 political organization (which is still tax-exempt itself, but to which donations to it are not tax-exempt) it ought to at least be acknowledging its lobbying expenses, wouldn’t you say? Well, surprise of surprises, Damascus Citizens says it did no lobbying in 2014, made no attempts to oppose legislation and did nothing to advocate the adoption or rejection of legislation; not one little thing, according to page 3 of its 990 return:
No, there is no Schedule C attached and an obviously incorrect assertion that Damascus Citizens does no lobbying. This is part of a pattern of abuse by fractivist organizations funded by the Haas, Heinz, Park and Rockefeller families. They cannot afford to do lobbying themselves or operate as 501(c)4 organizations, so they simply fund fractivism by shill groups such as Damascus Citizens, the Clean Air Council, the Delaware Povertykeeper a/k/a Riverkeeper and the like, who are willing to make these kinds of blanket assertions and do the dirty work for them.
Damascus Citizens is as phony a group as is imaginable and they appear to have told a huge whopper in saying they do no lobbying. Does anyone care they’re masquerading as a charity to the political work of Pennsylvania and New York elites unwilling to sully their names and tax-exemptions to exercise undue political influence through the back door? Will anyone other than this blog call them out? More importantly, will the enablers of these phony groups in the media challenge the elite families funding this stuff? It’s long past time these corrupt elitist foundations were investigated for using fronts such as Damascus Citizens to exercise their influence.