Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Phony Christian charity collecting Hurricane Harvey relief funds?

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Yesterday I received a solicitation from Mat Staver, chairman of  the hate group Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Relief International, a humanitarian relief ministry of Liberty Counsel, is asking you to help support relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Harvey has and continues to inflict catastrophic disaster to Houston, Texas - the fourth largest American city that is larger than the entire state of New Jersey. Already, 450,000 people have been affected by the storm, which continues to dump rain on already flooded regions.
Yesterday morning I also updated my local copy of the IRS Business Master File. The database includes summary information on every tax-exempt entity in the nation. There are currently 1,715,869 records in the database. In spite of the claim that Liberty Relief International is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization, it is not listed in the BMF. Nor is it listed in the IRS's online verification system.

When I say that it is not in the Business Master File, I even searched Liberty* in Virginia or Florida (which returned 89 records). Next step was the domain registration.

$ whois LibertyReliefInternational.org
[Querying whois.pir.org]
[whois.pir.org]
Domain Name: LIBERTYRELIEFINTERNATIONAL.ORG
[…]
Updated Date: 2017-08-08T07:27:18Z
Creation Date: 2014-10-07T19:05:51Z
Registry Expiry Date: 2018-10-07T19:05:51Z
[…]

Registry Registrant ID: C3016627-LROR
Registrant Name: LIBERTY COUNSEL
Registrant Organization: LIBERTY COUNSEL

As you can see, it's been around for nearly three years. Next step was the tax return. Liberty Counsel indicates that it is the direct controlling entity of nine other entities. One of these days I might try to untangle that mess but, for now, suffice it to say that Liberty Relief International is not among those nine.

There are legitimate possibilities. LRI might have just received nonprofit status (the 2015 tax return predates the status change) and the IRS has not updated the file. Another possibility is that 501(c)3 status is pending. Approvals are generally retroactive to the application date. If that is the case then Staver should say so.

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