Fox News host Mike Huckabee is irked at President Obama for converting his campaign apparatus into a tax-exempt non-profit advocacy group. Appearing on Fox & Friends Saturday, the former Arkansas governor admonished the president by saying: "Fine, go ahead and have your organization. Pay taxes on it like the rest of us have to when we get out and speak in our businesses and personal lives."
This is nonsense. Huckabee has his own tax-exempt political action committee, Huck PAC, that he has hyped up on Fox News and uses to "promote conservative principles and help elect conservative candidates at every level of government." Indeed, Huckabee has made ample use of tax-exempt groups throughout his political career and actually has a sketchy history with non-profits.
Back when he was lieutenant governor of Arkansas, Huckabee and his allies formed a non-profit group that had just two functions: to pay for Mike Huckabee to travel across the country bashing health care reform, and to pay Mike Huckabee. The New York Times reported in December 2007, when Huckabee was running for president, that Huckabee had been losing money serving as lieutenant governor, and "to bridge the gap between his income and his expenses, Mr. Huckabee and a few close political advisers came up with a plan. They formed a nonprofit organization that raised money for Mr. Huckabee to travel the country promoting conservative politics to fellow ministers and attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan."
The group, Action America, existed for only three years and paid Huckabee a total of $61,500 -- money that Huckabee failed to disclose, drawing a "letter of caution" from the Arkansas Ethics Commission.
Huckabee also said the fact that the newly-formed group formed from Obama's campaign, Organizing For Action, is tax-exempt is "ironic" because "I thought we were all supposed to be patriotic and pay our fair share," adding that Organizing For Action is "exploiting" a "loophole." A more accurate description of what the group is doing would be "following tax law." Organizing For Action is a 501(c)4 organization, which means it is tax-exempt. However, to qualify for that tax-exempt status, there are a whole host of rules it must follow that limit the types of advocacy it can engage in and the extent of its political activity. In fact, the group will reportedly go beyond what is legally required of it and disclose all its donors.
None of that, however, has anything to do with personal income tax rates, which is what the president and the White House are talking about when they bring up "paying our fair share." Everyone who draws a salary from Organizing For Action will presumably pay taxes on that salary.