Thursday, October 14, 2010

Petition to IRS Concerning Fellowship Foundation

The Kansas City Star reports that a group called Clergy VOICE has petitioned the IRS to investigate a 2004 payment of $50,000 made to the Fellowship Foundation by the Islamic American Relief Agency.  The Fellowship Foundation is the organization that runs a boarding house on Capital Hill used by conservative members of Congress.  The Islamic American Relief Agency was designated a supporter of global terrorism by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2004 and was being investigated by the U.S. Senate for possible ties to terrorism.

The money given to the Fellowship Foundation was supposed to have been paid to Mark Deli Siljander, a former congressman who had agreed to lobby for the Islamic American Relief Agency to have it removed from a list of organizations being investigated by the Senate.  Siljander pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators and to acting as an unregistered foreign agent.  He is awaiting sentencing.  

Clergy VOICE is a group of Ohio pastors dedicated to "safeguarding the separation of church and state, while promoting the historic role of organized religion in our society."  In the petition to the IRS the group expressed concern that some of the money intended for Siljander was used by the Fellowship Foundation to fund overseas trips by congressmen.  The president of the Fellowship Foundation has said that the entire amount was paid to Siljander and that the organization did not know that the Islamic American Relief Agency was being investigated for possible terrorist activities.

In an article in Roll Call, Mark Owens, lawyer for Clergy VOICE, notes that the denial by the president of the Fellowship Foundation of knowledge of the payment suggests that "'they don't have control over their money.  They let other people control it for their private purposes and that raises a question' about whether the foundation is meeting the obligations of its tax-exempt status."  Owens says the DOJ documents, filed in connection with the criminal case, do not provide enough detail to show that the Fellowship Foundation did something wrong, but they raise "legitimate questions about whether the organization is entitled to tax-exempt status."


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