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Tax Probe Unfairly Targets Trump's VOA Nominee, Backers Say


Some supporters have dubbed it a perverse form of poetic injustice, while others argue it’s setting an unprecedented high-stakes norm of scrutiny for a Trump nominee in today’s hyper-partisan Washington.

Conservative documentary filmmaker Michael Pack, President Trump’s choice to head a taxpayer-funded broadcasting agency, is now facing Democrats’ accusations regarding his business practices even though documentary filmmakers on the left have set up their film companies in similar ways, according to tax documents reviewed by RealClearPolitics.


Michael Sanders, the lead partner at Blank Rome LLP’s Washington, D.C., tax-exempt group, wrote a textbook on tax issues surrounding nonprofits, “Joint Ventures Involving Tax-Exempt Organizations.”  

“It’s an area that calls for very close scrutiny of the specific fact patterns” involved, he said in an interview. “Without doing a very careful analysis, there’s no way to tell if there is any wrongdoing – each case is different. It’s dangerous to jump to a conclusion, and anyone can put any slant they want on the facts.”  

Such cases, when they get to the IRS, are there for “a long, long time” before they are decided, added Gayle Forst, another exempt-organizations tax attorney in the firm, who has contributed to Sanders’ book.  

“In the modern world, charities are engaging in a lot of different activities and the IRS accepts the fact,” she said. “Exempt organizations can have a for-profit-related organization. It’s not per se bad.”  

Sanders also stressed that the IRS could take at least a year, potentially several, to reach a determination after a very detailed examination of the facts in a case like this involving extensive back-and-forth with the taxpayer on the facts.  

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“Tax Probe Unfairly Targets Trump's VOA Nominee, Backers Say,” by Susan Crabtree was published in RealClearPolitics on May 20, 2020.