and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

October 12, 2004

Who's MTF protecting now?

It's bad enough when Michael Widmer and his so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation works behind the scene using its alleged "nonpartisan," tax-exempt non-profit status year after year to undercut any real reform in state government.

It's worse when tax-exempt, alleged "non-partisan" Widmer and MTF openly advocate for one side of a ballot question or another – as they did with Question 5 in 2000 in a TV ad in which Michael Widmer, representing MTF, specifically asked for a "No" vote; and again in 2002 during Carla Howell's ballot campaign for abolishment of the state income tax was primarily opposed by Widmer, again representing MTF, the lead opponent but without filing a ballot committee.

But now we have MTF timing its latest public attack "report" on the voters’ income tax rollback to undercut reform candidates only three weeks before an election in which that income tax rate cut is a key issue. 

The Legislature is not in session. We are well into the FY’05 budget year and the FY’06 budget debate is months away. There is no imminent vote on the rollback issue. So why is it necessary to release yet another anti-rollback report right now? Nothing is going on except ... the November state election, with its one opportunity to create a two-party system, with fresh candidates attacking incumbents’ refusal to abide by the will of the voters in 2000.

Many incumbents are worried. What they need is "non-partisan" cover for their lack of respect for the voters. MTF is giving it to them. In a timely manner. 

Is it possible that, emboldened by so far never having its tax-exempt status challenged, MTF is trying to exert influence over legislative election outcomes? If so, it’s time someone calls them on it.

We would point out that MTF has been doing its doom-and-gloom thing since the income tax rollback was first on the ballot, after it passed, and right into the FY04 budget surplus – which it urged legislators not to spend on pork – though of course they did. The only road to fiscal responsibility is tax limitation: and ironically the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is always standing in the way. We don’t know why: we just note the continued drumbeat for more state tax revenues.

In a CLT Update to its membership on Nov. 25, 2003, "National teachers union investigated by IRS: Is MTA and MTF next?" We quoted a Nov. 25, 2003 AP report ("IRS probes union's political expenditures"}:

"The IRS has begun auditing the National Education Association, which has allocated millions of dollars to elect pro-education candidates while reporting on tax forms that it does not spend union dues on politics....

"The NEA has tax-exempt status as a union, but must report ‘direct and indirect’ political expenses on its tax return. Some of those expenses could be considered taxable by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS defines a political expense as "one intended to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of anyone to a federal, state, or local public office."

Chip Ford wrote in his CLT Commentary:

"Of course both the MTA and the MTF have something else in common. I've documented how the MTA, the state teachers union, contributed immense amounts of money to the ballot campaign which opposed our income tax reduction. Let's not forget that Michael Widmer and the the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation – which also holds IRS tax-exempt status – led the campaign against Carla Howell's 2002 ballot question to abolish the state income tax.

"Will IRS auditors soon be knocking on the MTF's door too?"

That question today is more pertinent than ever.

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