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Documents Show Hollywood Right-Wingers Like Gary Sinise Were Acting Shady About Their Political Donations

A secretive group called Friends of Abe indulges in some questionable behavior.

Before Republican Senator Ted Cruz flew to Los Angeles to speak to Hollywood’s secretive right-wing organization, Friends of Abe (FOA), Cruz suggested to the Hollywood Reporter that IRS’s reluctance to immediately ordain FOA as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-free charity was a left-wing government conspiracy. (IRS exemption requirements for 501(c)(3) charities can be found here.)

The online Hollywood Reporter quotes Cruz on 2/20/2014 saying, “FOA should respond to the IRS as it would any McCarthyite request for information.” Invoking Joseph McCarthy in the negative seems particularly odd for extreme right-winger Ted Cruz. Other prominent FOA members defend McCarthy as a heroic victim of traitorous communists who pose as being members of the Democrat Party. Ann Coulter, a Friends of Abe darling who spoke at one of its events, wrote a book called Slander that defends McCarthy as the ultimate patriot and insults McCarthy’s opponents, who included the five-star General George Marshall, as traitors.

What is Friends of Abe anyway? Founded by actor Gary Sinise, prominent FoAers include Clint Eastwood, Kelsey Grammer, Jerry Bruckheimer, Patricia Heaton, Robert Duvall, and David Mamet and perhaps as many as 1,500 total members. Friends of Abe, or FOA as the group is known among members, had been seeking nonprofit charity status since early 2011. Jeremy Boreing, an apparent documentary filmmaker who serves as the public operative for Sinise, went on a media blitz in late January and early February, decrying the IRS for purposely withholding the group’s request for 501(c)(3) status as part of a program to “target” and “harass” conservatives.

Conservatives claiming “victimhood” at the hands of the IRS has become an overused meme. On the Fox News Megyn Kelly show, The Kelly File, reporter Trace Gallagher proclaimed, “The group is called 'Friends of Abe' named after Abraham Lincoln, and it’s made up of 1,500 conservative members of the entertainment industry. They gather for things like meals, drinks, and to learn about the political process. It is now seeking 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, so that donations could be tax deductible just like some progressive groups. Getting the exemption would prohibit the group from partisan activity. Now 'Friends of Abe' acknowledges having speakers like Karl Rove and Herman Cain, but they deny having a political agenda. 'Friends of Abe' says it doesn't just suspect they were being targeted by the IRS, they say they were told they're being targeted by the IRS.”

According to Boreing (on "The Kelly File"), “We understand through our attorneys that our agent at the IRS who was handling our file, specifically said we had been targeted on the BOLO (Be On the Lookout) list. So I think that probably the reason we're being targeted is we filed as a conservative educational fellowship.”

On his own website, Boreing added, “The struggle for 501(c)(3) status went on for nearly three years with no answer from the IRS.... We're not advocating for anything. We're not trying to accomplish any objective politically or even from a Hollywood business point of view.”

Apparently FOA’s media blitz worked. According to the March 16 online New York Times, the IRS caved in and gave the group full 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

It turns out the IRS was played. FOA had been gaming the system all along.

In its impatience with the IRS review process, FOA began telling its members that it had full 501(c)(3) status as early as 2011, in order to solicit donations. In December 2011, Gary Sinise sent out an email to FOA members trumpeting the status. From that point on, all members were continually reassured that their donations were fully tax deductible and that FOA had full 501(c)(3) status.

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