Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson is calling on the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of a Muslim civil rights group that called for him to drop out of the presidential race last month.
Carson says that the executive director of the group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), violated federal tax law which explicitly prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from directly or indirectly intervening in political campaigns.
“By doing so, the organization has brazenly violated IRS rules prohibiting tax-exempt nonprofits like CAIR to intervene in a political campaign on behalf of — or in opposition to — a candidate,” Carson states on his campaign website.
Carson’s demand is the latest turn in a saga touched off last month after the retired neurosurgeon offered his candid thoughts during an interview on “Meet the Press” about the possibility of a Muslim president.
“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” Carson said.
Nihad Awad, CAIR’s executive director, held a press conference the next day calling on Carson to end his White House bid.
“We ask Mr. Ben Carson to withdraw from the presidential race because he’s unfit to lead because his views are in contradiction with the United States Constitution,” Awad said.
Awad argued that Carson contradicted a clause in the Constitution which prohibits a religion test for presidential candidates. Carson’s campaign has said that he was not saying that a Muslim cannot run for president, merely that neither he nor the American electorate would support such a decision.
Days later, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly dug into the Internal Revenue Code and found that the provision covering non-profit 501(c)(3) groups strictly prohibits those organizations from weighing in either for or against candidates for public office.
Groups “are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,” the section states. (RELATED: Muslim Civil Rights Group May Have Violated Federal Law By Criticizing Ben Carson)
The group has not responded to the accusation it violated tax law.
As Carson notes in the statement, CAIR had its tax-exempt status revoked several years ago after it failed to file tax returns for three years. The IRS reinstated the group’s status in 2012.
CAIR has had other troubles. It was named as an unindicted co-conspirator of the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim group that was accused of funneling money to the terrorist group Hamas.
“The IRS should immediately revoke CAIR’s tax-exempt status,” Carson states. “Under the Obama administration, the IRS has systematically targeted conservative nonprofit groups for politically motivated audits and harassment. The agency should now properly do its job and punish the real violators of America’s laws and regulations.”