Friday, March 23, 2012

Project Veritas' response to my post -- and my rejoinder

Subject: James O'Keefe
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2012 19:20:22 -0400
From: Brian Meinders


My name is Brian Meinders, and I'm the Director of Communications for Project Veritas. I've read your blog entry on James and Project Veritas, and am writing to express my concern with several factual errors contained in your post. You wrote that we broke the law by accepting tax deductible donations before having been approved by the IRS as a nonprofit. IRS regulations permit organizations with pending applications to collect donations which become fully tax deductible when the application is processed and accepted. All of the donations in question were consequently fully tax deductible; we did nothing wrong in soliciting them and those of our donors who made them and wrote them off on their taxes also did nothing wrong.

You further stated that as a nonprofit we are obliged to respond to requests for information on your part, and that our failure to respond to your inquiries was unlawful. Here again you seem to have your facts confused. Nonprofit organizations are required to report an annual 990, and are required to furnish it to anyone who requests it, as you said. Since our application was accepted in April 2011, our 990 will be due on May 15 of this year. Until that time we are under no obligation to provide you any information; this email is more than you're entitled to. Please make appropriate factual corrections to your blog entry. An apology for your previous misunderstandings or misrepresentations would also be appreciated.

Brian Meinders


Subject: Re: James O'Keefe
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2012 16:51:33 -0700
To: Brian Meinders

Dear Brian,

You were in violation of IRS regulations by claiming that you were 501(c)(3) when your status was pending. If you were a 501(c)(3) as you claimed, you would have been required to furnish it as you yourself admit.

You also told donors that their contributions would be tax deductible when you had no right to say so. As you admit, the contributions only become tax deductible when the 501(c)(3) status is granted.

The fact that the 501(c)(3) status became official later, and those donations did, in fact, become tax deductible are irrelevant to the fact that when I was requesting information -- under the erroneous assumption that your website was accurate about your 501(c)(3) status -- you were in violation of IRS regulations.

Indeed, it seems you were fully aware that you were not in compliance with the law once I pointed it out. Could you explain why you removed the claim of 501(c)(3) status and tax-deductible donations very shortly after I got into contact with Ms. Kluck?

In short, it seems to me that my blog post is entirely factually correct. That being said, though, if you could point to a specific phrase or clause that you believe is factually incorrect, please let me know, and I'll see if a correction is warranted. (Regardless, I am posting your communication to my blog so that your concerns about my post are properly aired.)

I asked for documents from your organization which, in good faith, I thought I was entitled. Your misrepresentation of your status as 501(c)(3) on your website -- without any indication to me (or to your donors) that your status was pending -- was why I made my request, why I wound up complaining to the IRS, and why Project Veritas attempted a sting of me.

On that note... could you please explain to me why the Project-Veritas-sponsored sting on me falls within the purview of your nonprofit organization, especially since it seems like direct retaliation for my request for documents and my communication with the IRS about your misrepresentations?

Also, could you explain to me why it is within the purview of your nonprofit organization to fund and support illegal activities, such as the trespass upon NYU property by two Project Veritas operatives?

Speaking of which, an apology for your organization's illegal and retaliatory actions against me would also be appreciated.

--Charles Seife