How the Trump Revolt Was Funded

EDITORS NOTE: The below is over-simplified, but it helps me make an important point. I simply lack the resources and the energy to dig deeper. I’ll leave that to somebody else. The charts were made from IRS data.

Now that Joe Biden is being sworn in as President, it’s time to turn our attention to preventing another attempted take over of the U.S. Government by an authoritarian ignoramus downstream. That effort needs to begin with the IRS and the tax-exempt organizations who funded the Trump menace from the get-go and even paid travel expenses for the mob that stormed the Capital Building on January 6.

It begins with my old boss Pat Robertson and the mixing of politics with religion in the early 1980s. Pat ran for President in 1988, during an IRS Criminal Investigative Division investigation into criminal activity under our tax exemption. They had us nailed cold, but the investigation was halted when Pat threw his support to then Vice-President George H.W. Bush. I can’t prove it, but it’s my belief that Pat cut a deal with Bush to drop the investigation in trade for Pat’s support of Bush at the Republican Convention.

Years later, after Bill Clinton took office, the investigation was reopened, and CBN lost its tax exemption for the years 1986 and 1987 and paid a significant fine. That was followed by a ruling from the Federal Election Commission that CBN had broken FEC laws regarding campaign contributions. That fine was nearly $400,000.

The IRS allows very little political activity among those benefitting from this particular tax exemption. However, Anne Nelson’s brilliant book Shadow Network reveals the depth of the tax exempt organizations working under the auspices of the Council for National Policy, itself a tax exempt organization. These are almost entirely made up of 501©3 groups.

This graph represents organizations filing IRS form 990 between 1988 and 2017. There is a significant drop-off that occurred during the 2008 banking crisis, when it appears a number of organizations simply quit. The number of returns rebounded, but the interesting revelation here is that the fastest growing group in terms of sheer assets is found with those whose assets are over $50 million, an indication that the wealthiest charitable organizations are the ones growing.

Overall, the number of groups filing returns under the 501©3 designation has exploded over the last 40 years, but what’s really staggering in studying IRS data is the growth in total assets reported by these organizations. Here, the blue line represents the number of tax returns (which has gone from roughly 100,000 in 1985 to 300,000 by 2015), and the orange line represents total assets of those groups.

Clearly, the growth here represents a couple of things. One, the wealthy are increasingly hip to how tax-exempt foundations, for example, can be used to save/hide their otherwise taxable income. Two, those on the political right — the extreme political right — have used their tax-exempt statuses to raise money for their causes. Many of these groups use the “education” exemption to hide their real intent, which was and remains the overthrow of the U.S. Government in favor of some form of Christian Nation.

It’s scary how close they came.

But, now it’s time to pay for their illegal activities, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

After Tuesday

So, here we are on the eve of what’s been billed as the most important Presidential election of our lifetimes. Anybody who claims to “know” how tomorrow is going to end is a fool, but I must say that it sure feels like a walloping is at hand. Of course, your view likely is based on your sources of information, but an electorate that feels it made a mistake four years ago, is not about to perpetuate that error.

I not only believe that Joe Biden will win in a landslide, but also the Senate will be flipped, for to run locally as a Trump sycophant makes for really crappy and creepy local advertising, as witnessed here in Alabama with Tommy Tuberville’s attempts to paint Doug Jones as a liberal, anti-gun, pro-abortion monster. It just doesn’t work anymore, because the electorate has become hip to such manipulation and wants to see and hear about new and creative thinking in the midst of a pandemic that doesn’t care about our artificial government made up of big corporate interests and nothing else. Hardcore liberalism isn’t going to do the trick either, so what comes next is going to be very interesting for an old observer like me.

Democrats must think carefully about their next moves, because the machine that created “President” Trump in the first place (The Council for National Policy-CNP) will simply reload with a more mainstream-approved candidate next time. Unless, that is, we do something about it.

Therefore, I’m going to take advantage of this “day before” status to do a little forward thinking. Assuming a Biden victory, here are things I see ahead.

  • There will be a significant sigh of relief, which will likely result in a season of inertia at a time when significant action will be required. America is worn and weary, and we just want to rest. We must guard against this, because the real work of redefining America is going to take a Herculean effort.
  • The struggle to reclaim the brand “Christianity” will be ongoing, because Trump’s right-wing church leaders will blame Trump the person for losing. They will continue to press their causes, which are mostly found in the bedrooms of the country.
  • Biden and the Democrats must resist trying to resolve all of the problems created by the previous right wing government and work instead on efforts to prevent it from ever happening again. This America will support.
  • Biden’s first year will his most fertile in terms of getting anything serious done, and the danger will be in attempts to force putting everything back together in order to satisfy his coalition.
  • American business will be painted as the victim of an anti-capitalist plot by the left.
  • Regardless of any perceived mandate from the election, the right will deploy whatever weapons they have to create a stand still government until they can groom their candidate for 2024. It won’t be Mike Pence.
  • The wealthy will throw everything they have at maintaining their grip on the culture, including damage to our economy that they will blame on the socialist left.
  • The media will still be unable to stay away from Trump.
  • The National Debt MUST be attributed to the right and Trump’s corporate welfare. Somebody has to pay for all that greed, and that will likely be us. After all, that debt is ours.
  • The most important agenda item for Biden would be reformation of the tax exemption laws that will prevent the kind of right wing mischief of the CNP and the religious right. Politics should not be a tax exempt enterprise.
  • We will need to produce an effort that keeps Trump’s damage front and center. I promise the right is working on media strategies that will frame a narrative that Trump was the problem, not the ideology of the right. We must reframe that to marry Trump and the GOP, that without each other, they couldn’t have done the damage that they did.
  • I maintain my belief that the scent of victory supplied by the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett is enough to pause the pro-life movement’s energy.
  • The silk stockings need to be seen as a curse on freedom, not the blessing thereof. In 1646, John Milton wrote his Sonnet 12 as a part of his writings on divorce. It very well frames the big issue with the haves, and I’d like to see us find a way to use it. The most famous line from this poem is “License they mean when they cry liberty” — referring to the absolutism of the church and those elites who benefit from it. They want a form of licentiousness (freedom from all restrictions) instead of democratic freedom, which includes responsibility. Straightening out this difference contemporarily must be given our attention.
  • We should also not be afraid to acknowledge America’s anger with corporations.
  • News organizations must continue to investigate everything that’s happened over the last four years, for, as NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller wrote in the introduction of the new edition of Edward Bernays book Propaganda, “…the investigative journalist is the propagandist’s natural enemy, as the former serves the public interest, while the latter tends to work against it.”

This is a very incomplete list, but I hope you can see where I think the focus should be — on preventing another Trump from ever getting near the White House.

Winning tomorrow is just the beginning.