Tuesday, December 22, 2015

ADF warns Senate that DOJ nominee might enforce the law

Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian law firm, is opposing the nomination of Cono Namorato for Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice Tax Division. Namorato, who is eminently qualified and has bi-partisan support, has seen his nomination stalled due to a 2008 letter that he cosigned, as a private citizen, urging the IRS to investigate the actions of lawyers at what was then known as Alliance Defense Fund.

I do not want to share someone else's donation to the Trump campaign but that is exactly what would happen if political donations were tax deductible. They are not.

A 1954 change to the tax code bars tax-exempt organizations from taking a stand on political candidates. Houses of worship have the privilege of being tax exempt and donations are tax deductible. They are prohibited from electioneering because that would have the effect of making donations to a political campaign tax deductible.

ADF has been trying to goad the IRS with its “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” encouraging pastors to violate the law. ADF is confident that the law violates free speech guarantees in the First Amendment. Thus far, the IRS has not taken the bait. I think that they should in order to settle the matter once and for all.

The letter that Namorato cosigned claimed that attorneys at ADF – by encouraging unlawful actions – were violating the code of conduct and ethics rules that are required of attorneys who practice before the IRS. That seems simple enough. Lawyers are not supposed to encourage unlawful conduct. There is no exception, no privilege, for Christian lawyers.

Mr. Namorato further explained to the committee that his concern was for the integrity of the tax system. It is his belief that there is a valid concern anytime practitioners advocate the disregard or outright violation of the law.

ADF has written a letter to the Judiciary Committee chair, Senator Chuck Grassley, urging the nomination be rejected. As you can gather from some of the committee Q&A, the issue is more complex than I have presented it.

By the way, Grassley signed a 2006 letter of commendation as Namorato was leaving the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility on his way into private practice. Some things about all of this are troubling:
  1. ADF's letter to Grassley doesn't seem to be part of the public record. Why is that?
  2. Namorato has glowing reviews from former colleagues at the IRS and colleagues in private practice. I note that he even has the support of Rudy Giuliani. How does one Christian group have a stranglehold over a senatorial committee over one letter written seven years ago that asks what would seem to be a good question?
This is really shameful. It demonstrates that conservative Christians still have a grip on part of the GOP. What would happen if a Republican is elected President in 2016?

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