The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) – a national, tax-exempt organization not affiliated with local animal shelters and the most powerful anti-hunting group in the nation – has drawn fire from a group of lawmakers who question its status as a qualified 501 (c)(3) organization.

HSUS supported a ballot initiative in Missouri (Proposition B) by pouring in some $1.85 million (plus another $300,000 in non-cash contributions) into its Missouri front group’s bank account.

The measure passed by a slim three-point margin and sets regulations for the state’s dog breedersm including how many dogs are allowed per facility. At the root of the issue is whether the HSUS attempted to influence legislation as a “substantial part” of its activities.

In a letter to Inspector General Eric Thorson in Washington, D.C., six members of Congress from Missouri and Alaska — Don Young (R-Alaska), Vicky Hartzer (R-Missouri), Blaine Luetkemeyer

(R-Missouri), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Missouri), Sam Graves (R-Missouri), and Billy Long (R-Missouri) — have requested a federal investigation into the level of funding and participation of HSUS in Missouri’s affairs.

The letter follows previous letters to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner that have resulted in no remedial action.

The members of Congress state the case this way, “We believe that HSUS’s own public documents show beyond question that lobbying is a ‘substantial part’ of its activities, and feel that IRS’s failure to act is attributable to the politically-sensitive nature of HSUS’s activities.”

“We certainly understand that 501 (c)(3) organizations are allowed to participate in lobbying activities. However, lobbying not only is a substantial part of HSUS’s overall activities; it often appears to be the only reason for HSUS’s existence.”

By its own admission, HSUS spends more than twice as much on “Advocacy and public policy” than any other category of expenses. The Proposition B ballot initiative was heavily financed by HSUS. Campaign disclosure forms show that HSUS donated more than $2.1 million of the $4.8 million raised by proponents of the measure.

The lawmakers also cite other efforts in numerous examples of HSUS to influence legislation by having its employees urging the public to contact members of legislative bodies for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation.

As part of the investigation, the legislators are requesting the IRS to apply what it calls the “Substantial Part Test” to determine whether an organization has run afoul of conditions of its tax-exempt status.

According to IRS.gov, the test is conducted as follows: “Whether an organization’s attempts to influence legislation, i.e., lobbying, constitutes a substantial part of its overall activities is determined on the basis of all the pertinent facts and circumstances in each case. The IRS considers a variety of factors, including the time devoted (by both compensated and volunteer workers) and the expenditures devoted by the organization to the activity, when determining whether the lobbying activity is substantial.”

“No group should be allowed to maintain tax-exempt status solely due to its political leanings or power. If HSUS is not complying with the law, it should be investigated and disciplined just like any other organization, as taxpayers would be effectively subsidizing a political organization.”

Amen.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Glen Wunderlich is an outdoors writer for The Argus-Press. He can be reached by sending email to glenway@tds.net.

(12) comments

kaylor

This is good news........

BeatriceSweet

Would it make a difference if they supported animal shelters? This is a common
complaint about them. I think we all think that they must because of the "humane
society" name.

But would their financial support to local shelters change anyone's opinion or thinking?

Engineering Group

I guess the Humane Society of the United States should apply to be reclassified as a Social Welfare Organization 501(c)(4), the same as the NRA and the Republican PACS. Then all the money they donate would be considered just fine!!

littleblackdogs

What an extraordinary headline.

'Congress' pushes for probe ?......

Wha?

Six bozos do NOT a Congress make.

GaryW got his CFC mojo workin'.....

But it ain't workin....

Blinn44115

Very good news,
HSUS does not support shelters - they animal rights people only. Most of the money is spent on lobbying. They spread lies and misinformation all the time. The whole prop B in MO was a sham with poor information. The laws were already in place to take care of the problems If you read on their website on the # of animals in shelters you will discover there is no basis for the figure other than extending out numbers from 1970's

bealsie2

They should definitely be classified as a 501(c)(4). But then contributions to them would not be deductible. That would dry up their money stream.

littleblackdogs

And all you Humanwatchers should be classified as morons.

shelleyp

First, a correction for the article. This is not a Congressional request. This not based on any formal action of Congress, so it cannot be termed a "Congressional request".

This is six Congressional members sending a letter to the IRS. It means no more than if six of us got together and made the same request.

In addition, it's very unlikely that any action will come from this request. Well, other than adding a burden onto the IRS.

When you compare the amount of money that HSUS has contributed to legislative campaigns (in kind or cash), it is less money than HSUS spends on grants to local and international shelters, and much less money than it spends on national rescue and other field efforts. It is a fraction of the amount of money that the organization manages, and according to previous challenges to non-profits, well within the percentage allowed by the IRS.

This is just a few Congressional people fluffing their feathers and squawking like chickens--hoping to generate negative publicity via, well, articles such as this. It's a simple matter for a journalist to access HSUS IRS form 990 and to verify exactly how much money HSUS is spending on so-called lobbying effort. It's in black and white and not particularly difficult to find.

Perhaps this publication would do better to mark opinion pieces as such. If presenting an item as a "news" item, then it might be better for the publication to actually do a little fact checking, first.

glenway

I just read today's editorial page in The Argus-Press, "Wunderlich views on HSUS are wrong" but nowhere did I read what was "wrong" or "reckless". The fact of the matter is that, as indicated, six members of Congress have requested an investigation of the activities of HSUS. That's right, not wrong. That's accurate, not reclkess.

Markarian's attack on me, the author of the column, amounts to no more than killing the messenger. Nice try Mr. Markarian, but you are the one who's got it wrong. (Read today's Opinion page and you'll understand who is reckless.) And, if you want to read the actual letter from the Congress members to the U.S. Inspector General, here's the link: http://humanewatch.org/images/uploads/2011-04-18_IGLetter.pdf or click on Humanewatch.org and follow the link to the letter. It's right there and shows is the actual signed copy of the letter.

While it's true that HSUS is permitted to conduct a limited amount of lobbying activities, the word "limited" is what is being questioned. There are specific guidelines that must be followed to insure that "limited" does not morphe into "substantial." That is the issue - plain and simple. The rest of Markarian's editorial is smoke and mirrors and argues off the point.

And, as for the column's title, the newspaper's staff is responsible for that. Staff people read what is written and determine what the title should be. While it's true that Congress itself is not requesting the investigation, the request is hardly not the same as "six of us" making the request. If you received a personally written letter from just one member of Congress, would it carry the same weight as one from just any member of the public at large. Get real! It's news because of the stature of the authors.

Is it reckless to state the following? "The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) – a national, tax-exempt organization not affiliated with local animal shelters and the most powerful anti-hunting group in the nation..." Certainly not. It's the truth!

Does Michael Markarian state anywhere that HSUS is not the most powerful anti-hunting organization in the nation? No! Is there a more powerful organization against hunting? If so, what might it be? Please explain how this can be termed "wrong or reckless." You can't, because it is fact! Go ahead, and try that shoe on for size.

You see, that is the only opinioin injected into the entire mix; the remaining comments and quotes are taken directly from the letter written by the honorable Congress members - word for word. And, whether you like it or not, their letter written to Inspector General, Eric Thorson, is a matter of record and that is all that was printed - no other commentary was added. I realize it may be a bitter pill to swallow, and only time will tell if there is substance to the charges; however, the letter written is a matter of record.

Nowhere was it indicated that there shouldn't be laws on the books to protect animals. As The Argus-Press Outdoor Columnist for over six years, I have written on numerous occasions that poachers and those killing non-game species for any reason should be dealt with harshly. In fact, if it were up to me, the penalties would be significantly stiffer in almost all instances of animal abuse and law breaking.

However, the term abuse is where we part ways, because HSUS believes hunting itself is wrong and should be abolished. Has any one of you ever read where HSUS supports any form of hunting? I didn't think so.

HSUS has earned a lower rating than it has in the past -only 3 stars now - from Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org) for a simple reason: It doesn't spend contributors' money wisely.

So, if you believe you are helping animals with donations to HSUS you very well may be. But, the same dollar given to the local animal shelter, such as ours in Shiawassee County, won't be paying for executive pensions and astronomical salaries. It would be a better choice for those concerned with local animal welfare. And, for that reason, it's where I choose to donate, when I am so moved.

littleblackdogs

Anyone who expects us to goosestep to the the stinky propaganda oozing from empty-suit Rick Berman's corporate mein-kamph Humanewatch proves 1, that their brains have fallen out and 2, they have neglected to turn the pages on their calendar.

Aside from the fact that it is SERIOUSLY insulting to assume across-the-board reader stoopidity.

glenway

If name calling is the best you can do, one doesn't have to assume "stoodpidity."

littleblackdogs

Who was called what name?

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