September 8, 2020 Finance, Press Releases

Watchdog Files IRS Complaint Against Wisconsin Nonprofit for Omitting Political Spending on Tax Filings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 8, 2020

Contact: Michael Clauw, mclauw@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, requested that the IRS investigate Jobs First Coalition, Inc. (JFC), a Wisconsin-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, for failing to disclose nearly $1 million in political spending on its annual tax forms. Between 2016 and 2018, JFC transferred $920,000 to the Jobs First Coalition Political Fund (JFCPF), a 527 organization, which spent the money on independent expenditures in state legislative races and on administrative expenses. JFC did not disclose the spending on its annual 990s. Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has deep and longstanding ties to JFC.

Read the letter here.

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Jobs First Coalition isn’t a random nonprofit – it paid thousands of dollars to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’s wife for fundraising and its related PAC makes expenditures to support Vos’s allies in the Assembly. What is JFC hiding that it didn’t want to tell the IRS about its political activities?”

Between 2016 and 2018, JFC transferred a combined $920,000 to JFCPF, which used the money to run independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates for the Wisconsin State Assembly. During this period, Robert P. Reddin served simultaneously as executive director of the JFC and as treasurer of JFCPF. As executive director, he authorized the transfer of $920,000 out of JFC. As treasurer, he accepted the transfers to JFCPF and was involved in the organization’s use of the money to run independent expenditures in Wisconsin Assembly races and to pay for its administrative expenses.

JFCPF appears to have helped Speaker Vos assemble a bench of allies in the Assembly. Notably, JFCPF ran independent expenditures in support of several candidates that Speaker Vos supported with campaign funds including Todd Novak, Bob Kulp, and Patrick Snyder. Rep. Novak is now the chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality as well as the chair of the Committee on Local Government. Rep. Kulp is the chair of the Committee on Transportation, and Rep. Snyder is the chair of the Committee on Children and Families. Additionally, JFC has a close business relationship with Speaker Vos’s third and current wife, Michelle Litjens. According to JCF’s 990s, between 2016 and 2018, JFC paid Ms. Lijtens consulting firm at least $167,810 for fundraising.

The transfer of money from JFC to JFCPF constitutes indirect political campaign activity, which JFC should have reported on its annual tax filing. Because Mr. Reddin was intricately involved in both organizations, it is clear that JFC understood how the contributions would be used by JFCPF.

By filing untruthful tax forms and by failing to disclose required information, JCF and Mr. Reddin may have violated federal law.

Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “The IRS should investigate JFC to determine whether Mr. Reddin violated the law. Nonprofits receive favorable tax treatment because they are supposed to work in the public’s interest. JCF, however, seems to operate mainly to benefit Speaker Vos’s allies.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.