I worked at the Leadership Institute in Arlington for a little more than four years; it was my first job out of college and one of the most important times of my career. I learned a tremendous amount about the conservative movement, the nature of coalitions, and how political technology was philosophically neutral. I also learned about character and left with a hero: Morton Blackwell. Today, I’m proud to be a Leadership Institute donor, and readily recommend LI to every young conservative I meet.
All that is to say, the news that the IRS targeted LI is absolutely outrageous.
On June 1, 2011, LI received notice of an audit of its tax return and activities in 2008.
What followed was a more than year-long investigation of more than 23,430 pages of records and requests for items like:
— a list of 2008 interns and their future employers;
— sample emails between employers and LI regarding ConservativeJobs.com; and
— how LI’s more than 300 trainings are advertised.
Ultimately, the IRS accepted the Institute’s tax return as filed.
“The IRS’ indefensible behavior is worse than we first thought, as it targeted both new and existing conservative groups in politically motivated attacks,” said Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute. “Fortunately my Leadership Institute had the resources to stand up to the government’s bullying and intimidation. Other groups, including grassroots and tea party groups we’ve helped train, did not. Defending ourselves from the harassing audit cost my organization more than $50,000 in legal fees alone.”
Morton is the squeakiest of clean. Everyone who worked at LI has seen him paying for postage for personal mail out of his pocket; we’ve watched him leave the building to take a call about the RNC, we’ve witnessed him interrupt or cancel a meeting because it veered near politics, and we’ve all felt the fear of God he puts into staff about how sacrosanct LI’s determination letter is.
There is no doubt in my mind that LI operated within the law. The only offense that you can charge Morton with is being effective in training conservative activists for almost 40 years.