Did Michael Brown’s Nonprofit Need to File Tax Returns, After All?
Councilmember Michael Brown yesterday defended the work of a now-defunct nonprofit he once ran from questions raised by one of his political opponents, David Grosso.
Brown says the Ronald H. Brown Foundation, named after his late father, was in compliance with federal tax laws even though it did not file tax return for several years before shutting down in 2008.
"Prior to 2008, the Internal Revenue Service did not require any filings if gross receipts were less than $25,000 per year. It was the Foundation’s understanding, through annual self-imposed audits, that the Foundation was in full compliance with all IRS filing requirements," Brown said in a statement. A search of Guidestar, a databases of nonprofit tax filings, shows that the Brown foundation didn't file a tax return after 2001.
Brown says the foundation's "final activity" was a golf tournament in Denver during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. An old website from the foundation shows that Brown was offering sponsorship packages of up to $10,000. It appears, though is not clear, that a foursome round cost $1,000 at the tournament. Non-golfers who wanted to attend a barbeque after the tournament was over could pay $50 for a ticket. Some of the boldface names who attended the event include National Urban League head Mark H. Morial, Councilmember Vincent Orange, and former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.
Ilir Zherka, head of D.C. Vote, says he attended the lucheon to accept an award on his organization's behalf. He said attendence at the event was small and probably no more than 30 people.
Brown says he doesn't remember how much the event made. With so few attendees, it's very possible that Brown's foundation didn't gross more than $25,000, and therefore wouldn't need to file a tax return.
But wait, there's more. The 2008 tax filings for the Cruise Industry Charitable Foundation, whose aim is to "improve the quality of life in the communities served by the cruise industry," show that it paid the Ronald H. Brown foundation $25,000 in 2008. LL's no tax expert, but that grant, plus whatever the golf tournament grossed, appear to indicate that the foundation should have filed a tax return in 2008. Brown, nor his campaign or council staff, immediately returned a comment asking about the cruise industry foundation grant.
The cruisers also gave Brown's foundation $15,000 in 2007, tax records show. Brown had a golf tournament in Leesburg, Va., that year as well. Brown says he doesn't remember how much that tournament grossed, either.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery