January 30, 2019 Press Releases, Themis Project

Watchdog Files IRS Complaint Against “World’s Largest” Anti-Choice Group for Engaging in Political Activity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 30, 2019

Contact: Bryan Dewan, bdewan@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (“CfA”), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) alleging Human Life International, Inc. (“HLI”), a nonprofit anti-choice organization based in Front Royal, Virginia, failed to report lobbying expenditures and engaged in prohibited political activities in support of its anti-abortion advocacy efforts in the Philippines.

Read the complaint here.

CfA Counsel Alice Huling said, “As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity, Human Life International is forbidden from engaging in certain political activities and must report its lobbying activity.  In its zeal to push its anti-choice agenda in the Philippines, HLI appears to have flouted the law.  The IRS should immediately open an investigation.”

HLI, whose stated goal is to “build a Culture of Life and of Love around the world through education, outreach, and advocacy,” claims to be the world’s largest international nonprofit anti-choice organization. HLI has been active on reproductive issues in the Philippines, specifically advocating to keep abortion illegal and to elect candidates who share its views.

A review of HLI’s political activity in the Philippines identified three areas in which HLI apparently violated IRS regulations.  First, HLI directly lobbied members of the Philippine Congress and engaged in grassroots advocacy campaigns without reporting those related expenditures on its annual tax form as required by law.  HLI did not disclose the costs associated with contacting Philippine senators or the production of a televised documentary aimed at raising awareness of an anti-choice bill.

Second, HLI spent money to intervene in political campaigns.  Notably, in March 2013, HLI and the Catholic Archdiocese of Cebu, a Philippine province, co-organized Lay Initiatives for Elections (“LIFE”) 2013 to “screen pro-life candidates running for national congressional offices” and endorse them ahead of the country’s 2013 election.

LIFE 2013, which was led by HLI’s Philippines Country Director, Dr. Rene Bullecer, appears to have exclusively engaged in political campaign activities, including organizing rallies and distributing approximately 2.5 million sample ballots with the names of endorsed candidates.

Finally, HLI representatives spoke out in support of political candidates at public events in the Philippines, including an April 13, 2013 rally in Paranaque City “to show support for six pro-life candidates.” HLI officials also endorsed specific candidates from LIFE 2013 in the media.  Research into HLI’s activities was conducted by Equity Forward.

Such activities appear to violate IRS prohibitions.  Nonprofit organizations risk losing their tax-exempt status with the IRS if they engage in substantial lobbying and prohibited political activity, including in foreign countries.

Ms. Huling continued, “The IRS’s rules are clear: tax-exempt charities cannot engage in electoral politics whether at home or abroad.  HLI should be investigated and held accountable for its actions.”

Campaign for Accountability is a 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.