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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who filed the anonymous IRS complaint against Charles Lewis?

Last night we posted about the anonymous complaint that's reportedly been filed with the IRS, alleging that Portland City Council candidate Charles Lewis is misusing the nonprofit organization he founded to further his campaign. His opponent, Amanda Fritz, whose campaign treasurer made similar complaints to city elections officers last November, denies in comments on this blog that she or anyone connected to her or to her campaign sent the IRS the complaint.

Here's the complaint and at least part of the cover letter, as supplied to us by Lewis today. He says he got it from the kids at the Merc, who recently received a copy, presumably from whoever wrote it:

If this didn't come from the Fritz camp, where did it come from?

Comments (52)

The font on that cover letter looks like it was produced on an electric typewriter.

The bit in the address line about "Criminal Investigations Division" is an embellishment. The instructions for the form itself simply call for it to be sent to "Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888"

Be transparent, like me. Doe should post their letter to the IRS online, and identify themselves (just like with identifying a person who commissioned a poll). My filing included the following argument:

"I understand that if the IRS does decide to pursue this matter that the proceedings are subject to confidentiality. Yet, given that the matters are of public interest and involve a public body, by way of its office of City Attorney, trying to deny me and any other non-member of the subject private association ballot access that the proceedings be exempted from the confidentiality rule."

We really don't want the IRS to have the power to be sneaky on behalf of some unnamed unseen complainers (special benefit seekers), or even clumsy bureaucrats.

That way everyone can form their own opinion on the merits of a charge, with reference to some facts, and then move on without the added specter of speculation regarding the anonymity of the charger. If the facts are in error then the target can address them right away. You know, like the protected right to confront an accuser.

I have been meaning to make a public records request to our Auditor and his special friend (The Institute of Internal Auditors) about whether the IRS ever contacted him/them regrading the issue described in my June 22, 2007, letter. I suspect they have not heard a peep from the IRS (consistent with Jack's sense of things).

The IRS's arbitrary application of law seems to be of greater concern to me, on many fronts, than their apparent unwillingness to jump at the first opportunity to meddle in local elections. (Have you ever tried to "volunteer" to resolve/mediate a domestic dispute? If you have, it will likely be the last. It is sort of like that, from the perspective of an IRS employee just doing their job.)

In my opinion, this Auditor is far too tainted with his own problem of placing superior loyalty to a private association, referenced in my referral to the IRS, to say boo about anything related to any lesser "IRS" violation than his own affiliation with a membership organization. In general, it is best to be sufficiently certain of any charge of criminality, from the perspective of a defense to a libel/slander charge. Don't be too reckless, just because of the compressed time frame of one election cycle -- it is not a recognized defense.

A frivolous charge, delivered anonymously, will net the wrath of Jack.

A jury can disregard any testimony of a witness that is caught red handed in one lie. (There is some Latin phase for the concept. Like with spelling, I forget such things.) So too, one can disregard the entirety of what this Auditor says because of his own violation of the public trust -- in regard to a core ballot-access right (even if the city attorney agrees). Let him sue me for libel. He won't. See how it works. He lacks credibility, or at least lacks good judgment

Amanda, I was denied pre-authorization to gather signatures to even participate in the free money scheme. Does this bother you?

I oppose the two-track system, as I have repeated like a mantra, where it is based only on someone's completely voluntary public assertion/pledge that they will spend less than X. No one needs public money to make such a public pledge. Will you bite the hand that feeds you? Even if it were to mean the termination of the delivery of public money to any campaign (which is wholly fungible with your own money just like Dozono or Mannix or Boyles, or as asserted by the OAE against their favorite opponent)?

Go Jack Go.

Who has the time or the inclination to go and look up the darn tax ID number of Ethos and include that on the form sent in to the IRS? Someone meticulous -- a detail person. Who needs to end the cover letter with a description of the policy behind tax exemption for nonprofits? Someone deeply steeped in policy considerations. Who would point out that Lewis might be tempted to solicit campaign contributions from the list of Ethos donors? Someone who's done some political fundraising himself or herself.

Is this something Chris Smith or John Branam or Jeff Bissonnette would do?

One other thing: Sending a copy of this to the Merc shows that this is all about derailing Lewis's campaign. It is not about protecting Ethos.

Who among Lewis's opponents has a love thing going for the Merc?

Given how easy it is to look up non-profit information on GuideStar.org, I don't think looking up the darn tax ID is that big of a deal. Interesting that Lewis is the only executive that was paid a salary by Ethos in the last year of filing that is available.

I don't think looking up the darn tax ID is that big of a deal

Sure, it's easy, if you know how to do it. But how many of these forms do you think come in to the IRS with that number filled in? If it's more than 10 percent, I'd be surprised.

This was done by someone smart, but perhaps too smart for his or her own good.

Interesting that Lewis is the only executive that was paid a salary by Ethos in the last year of filing that is available.

Interesting, but not relevant to the question of who filed this anonymous complaint and sent it to the Merc. Which is what we're discussing at the moment.

Interesting that Lewis is the only executive that was paid a salary by Ethos in the last year of filing that is available.

Actually, not interesting at all. Quite common in the world of small non-profit organizations. The smaller the staff, the higher the % of contributions go towards program expenses rather than staff. There are a good number of non-profits with a single paid employee.


Rim shot!

Who loves to use the word "society"?

Maybe not even that smart. If you check out the Ethos website (www.ethos.org), and click on "About Us," the federal tax ID is right below the address, telephone and email.

If you google "ethos federal tax id" you'll get it on the first link, and its in the blurb on the second link.

Guess you'd have to be smart enough to know the tax ID is the same as an EIN ...

I can't get over the fact that this is a fake political scandal with break dancing involved. That is so classic.

I don't think it's a "scandal." I'm just trying to figure out which of these two to vote for.

CoP Road Repair Union - Lewis is filling in potholes and that's not in his job jurisdiction.

"Is this something Chris Smith would do?"
Of course he would. So would Sam Adams and all their shared minions that can be found on both their blogs every day.

I dunno. Lewis is not running against Adams. And the little flourish about "contributions to society" doesn't sound like Smith. Plus, the documents are awfully neat and tidy -- it doesn't look like a disgruntled union member or a loose cannon "minion."

I had no idea this form existed. They should have an item "reason for filling out this form, please check one: Vendetta _ Revenge _ Jealousy _ "

At any rate, it was probably someone savvy, since they don't say much that could be found untrue, e.g. "may be" or "it is suspected." Also, i'd wager this isn't a one-time thing. Whoever wrote this has probably taken similar potshots at lewis before.

Amanda, who has a Cambridge degree in science, writes the language much better than that screed, Sherlock!

Which, if true, proves what, exactly?

It's how we eliminate suspects, Watson.

Hmmm. So, the culprit is smart, meticulous, concerned with matters of public policy, possesses a specialized knowledge of tax and campaign financing law violations, and must have an oversupply of free time...

If it weren't for the lack of motive, Jack- you would be my prime suspect.

I'm not sure the anonymous complainant knows much about the tax law. This is a "case" that the IRS won't likely waste its time on. Also, there's no such thing as "the IRS code"; there are supposed to be parentheses around the "3" in "501(c)(3)"; and it's the "Criminal Investigation (singular) Division."

Then again, this person probably doesn't care what the IRS thinks -- just what the kids at the Merc will think.

Maybe Lewis did this himself, and is using it to smear Fritz. Anything's possible. Does that sound right to you, though? He's a showboat (literally), sure, but a conniver?

Circumstantial evidence is sometimes all there is to go on. Fortunately here, we're not in a criminal proceeding, where proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required. We're just trying to figure out whom I should vote for, as to which a preponderance of the evidence should be sufficient.

Thank you for talking about this- it is a dirty deed no matter who started it. Knowing a bit about both Fritz and Lewis, I am confident to say that there are far enough negatives about Fritz all ready; Lewis certainly doesn't need to spend time creating more. Good luck sleuthing!

Maybe if you tire of Fritz and Lewis, you can start looking at John Branam. He may be the most reasonable and rational of the candidates in that race.

I watched Branam's campaign kickoff on the internet. It was like a student reading a political science term paper out loud. No offense intended to students, but he needs to get real.

There are 73,010 people who work for non-profits in the Portland Metro area. Some numerically significant number of them will be very familiar with the prohibition on political activity by (c)3's... (In this field that knowledge is equivalent to -- can he/she walk and chew gum at the same time...)

As a rule, most of the people I know working in the nonprofit sector are both smart and interested in public policy. Most will be quite conversant with such IRS trivia as tax ID numbers.

I think you're fishing in a bigger pond than you realize, Jack :-)

Interesting that Lewis is the only executive that was paid a salary by Ethos in the last year of filing that is available.

That isn't actually true. Ethos has several paid employees, but an exempt organization is only required to list the salaries of employees earning $50,000 or more per year, which in this case is probably just Lewis.

At any rate, I don't know anything about the real merits of the complaint, but I've definitely heard of at least one Ethos event which had some dangerously political elements. Anyone working in the nonprofit sector should, by now, be aware of the rules concerning political activities and this is even more true for an executive director who runs for public office without taking a leave of absence.

IRS is generally hesitant to conduct meaningful investigations into this area anyway (unless there is blatant private inurement), so if anything actually comes of this complaint, I say more power to the complainant.

...I've definitely heard of at least one Ethos event which had some dangerously political elements.

Well at least you're definite about having heard something. The stretch from there to evidence would be the key. I've definitely heard things too, but that's a whole other story.

That isn't actually true. Ethos has several paid employees, but an exempt organization is only required to list the salaries of employees earning $50,000 or more per year, which in this case is probably just Lewis.

No, Lewis is the only executive that was paid. (In IRS speak: Officer, Director, Trustee, or Key Employee.) They have to be listed even if they aren't paid/compensated. There are plenty of other employees, all of which are paid less than $50,000, so they aren't listed on the 990.

Maybe Leslie Roberts?

Assuming that Amanda is credible, I could accuse the Merc themselves. They have the anti-tape vigilante thing under their belt, and their wet head bucket brigade "joke" to quell the July 4th celebration of freedom. It is all just a joke, you know -- to stir up controversy.


Can you help me out? Here is my argument to answer the above proposition:

Can you square "blatant private inurement" with an alternative state level test?:

162.415 Official misconduct in the first degree. (1) A public servant commits the crime of official misconduct in the first degree if with intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another: (a) The public servant knowingly fails to perform a duty imposed upon the public servant by law or one clearly inherent in the nature of office; or (b) The public servant knowingly performs an act constituting an unauthorized exercise in official duties.

Think of a cautious public official trying to apply the law so as not to get into trouble themselves. Bear in mind that the auditor is not a member of the bar.

Who should answer the question of whether the alleged conduct noted in the complaint was or was not consistent with the law? Which begs the question of which law: myopic focus on the city code, versus state statutes and case law . . . and further consideration of federal law.

Whether the IRS is made privy to the same facts should not make one bit of difference, should it? If the IRS does not care does this itself provide an excuse to the local officials from performing some review on the merits? It is no excuse, in my opinion.

Can the local officials just ignore the facts alleged by reason of the anonymity of the IRS complainant, as related by the Merc? The officials do have, in the alternative, the name of a candidate -- a participating candidate -- who made similar factual assertions to the city elections officer.

If this auditor, or his designated staff member, just blurts out that there is nothing to it is this something that instills confidence in the system? (Silly me, and my abhorrence of arbitrary government action.)

It would at least be nice to get a couple of folks to make their allegations under oath and in a proceeding that is open to the press and the public. The auditor could at least ask the boys at the Merc who it was that dropped off the material; to which Matt could reply "____ ___." Don't forget too that the press has a special exemption from treatment as a Political Action Committee under state law.

Should the auditor be treated as a definitive expert and final authority on the scope of such press exemption? Can he hide behind the argument that it was all Andrew's fault, if there was any fault at all? On this, only a member of the bar can extend some level of cover that official conduct was lawful, even if it is unlawful (here as in not looking into the allegations because it just looks too messy).

The boys at the Merc have already squandered their opportunity to assert as a defense to libel the lack of actual malice, at least as to the host of this site. Have they also squandered their opportunity to claim that they are not a PAC, by not revealing the identity of the person who dropped off the material?

I say let them cough up the name of the person that delivered the allegations, even though presented in the form of an anonymous IRS complaint. It wasn't the IRS that delivered it to the Merc. Either that, or be called a PAC and forced to file campaign finance reports; let them assert a statutory privilege.

If they refuse to reveal the name can I conclude that they did it themselves, and are just using the IRS anonymity thing as crazy cover for their latest game?

"cc" gets all uptight and righteous about rumor-mongering "Well at least you're definite about having heard something. The stretch from there to evidence would be the key. I've definitely heard things too, but that's a whole other story."

I like this "cc" better than the one who posted on the original thread. The one who, in response to "things he'd heard" -- but had seen no evidence to support -- said "This sort of thing is simply not on.

Apparently Amanda either doesn't know or doesn't care what her supporters do to "help" her get elected..."

And, the evidence???? Oh yeah, all in the stretch.

All this loud protesting that it couldn't possibly be the work of Amanda's camp isn't convincing me that it wasn't. I guess we'll never know with 100 percent certainty, but testimonials from her friends don't erase the facts that: her campaign guy was whining about this issue from Day 1; she loves the writers at the Merc, where this entire rhubarb started and continued; the forms are filled out with Amanda-like precision and thoroughness; the cover letter refers to "Ethos Music," a shorthand that I've never seen anyone but Amanda herself use for the organization (everyone else calls it simply "Ethos"); references to "contributions to society" are classic Fritz prose; and her campaign had both motive and opportunity to do this. That's really a pretty good circumstantial case.

The fact that several of Amanda's defenders are taking additional pot shots at Lewis, who hasn't done anything wrong as far as I can tell, are also not helping me conclude that this was not out of the Fritz campaign. There's a passive-aggressive vibe here that's really bothering me.

"There's a passive-aggressive vibe here that's really bothering me."

That's what makes me think it was Amanda.

I would feel extremely confident betting on it being Amanda 'I haven't stopped campaigning since 2005' Fritz.

" Lewis, who hasn't done anything wrong as far as I can tell"

From my perspective, making an unsubstantiated, false allegation is wrong.

The only similarity between the IRS complaint and my campaign's two conversations with the Auditor's Office in November is that they originated with the same event. Our concerns were about the provisions of city code which prohibit giving something of value in return for the $5 contribution. When the City Auditor's office determined that there was no violation, we dropped it. The IRS complaint revolves around the relationship between the Lewis campaign and his non-profit - a completely different issue.

In considering "circumstantial evidence", a motive is also needed. None of the candidates has a motive for filing the IRS complaint. If proven, it would not disqualify Lewis as a candidate, it would harm his non-profit and the good work it does. Other candidates would have to be stupid to do that. Do you really think I'm that dumb, Jack?

You'll have my answer soon.

Oh, boy! This is an awesome post, Jack! Everyone I've ever met in my life who says "do you really think I'm that dumb to do X" - DID IT! Always.

I couldn't believe she wrote that, either. It's tantamount to a confession.

Are you really a lawyer, Jack? Surely you know you are responsible for any defamatory material you publish. The internet has not extinguished the laws of libel in the United States.

Of course Amanda will not sue, expense aside, for as a public figure she would need to prove malice against you and your contributors. Also political figures are easy targets during campaigns.

You are very close to a complaint to Lewis and Clark Law School, perhaps to the Oregon State Bar. You would be well advised to remove all offending comment quickly.

Then buy a copy of the Associated Press Libel manual, shut up, and read it.

You need to check your law books. Besides, I stand by the truthfulness of all factual matter that I've written here. As I've said, it appears we will never know with any certainty who reportedly filed the IRS complaint against Lewis. As I've also said, there are facts that point circumstantially to the Fritz campaign. Every voter will have to make up his or her mind whom to vote for. All of these facts are worthy of consideration.

political figures are easy targets during campaigns.

Yes, and that's the point of this entire thread.

You are very close to a complaint to Lewis and Clark Law School, perhaps to the Oregon State Bar. You would be well advised to remove all offending comment quickly.

Thank you for the warning.

BTW, many people don't put a hyphen in "nonprofit." Others do...


Do you agree that an entity such as the City of Portland can assert a right to free speech under the US Constitution​?

Ok, back to your notion of "circumstantial evidence." ie -- she questioned something Lewis did, and then someone accused him of something else, ergo, in your mind, you have "circumstantial evidence" that she was the second accuser.

I still don't get your "evidence." She's notoriously careful to dot all her i's and cross all her t's. She gets all paperwork done right and sent to the right place. She's a perfectionist geek and never, never never has been known to stop at two, or five, sentences if a page or two of exposition, attachments, photos and etc would do a better job... So, you accuse her of sending the anonymous accusation in error to some non-existent IRS division (****apparently not paying attention to the instructions!!! --- hey Jack -- pay attention! that says it all, that is SO NOT Amanda -- her consistent MO is that she's the one who DOES follow instructions.)

The sloppy hit job you accuse her of is just not her size. The shoe doesn't fit, Jack. You're like Prince Charming, trying to stuff the shoe on the wrong foot.

You write>>>"I couldn't believe she wrote that, either. It's tantamount to a confession."

Oh horse-shit. Did you never think maybe she really meant it? That she really believes you wouldn't think her so stupid? That she might actually have believed you knew something about her, given the amount of time she's spent posting to this blog?

This is degenerating into something very awful. The mob is unleashed. But, hey, "tantamount to a confession." She must deserve it, right?

What if you're wrong?

Isn't that what the law is all about?

Anne, you are really not helping Amanda here.

To me the proposition that someone in the Fritz camp did this is, to say the least, highly plausible. No one will know for sure, I guess -- the slimy person who filed the complaint appears to have made certainty impossible. But at a minimum, the harsh response to my examination of the obvious facts tends to prove that the placid, benign tone of the Fritz campaign may not be genuine. This evening I have somebody threatening to complain to my employer and the State Bar about me, and suggesting a libel suit against me. Now you're on here swearing. Would someone from a hotheaded group like that take a cheap shot at Charles Lewis with the IRS? Quite possibly.

Secondly, someone needs to pull Amanda aside and advise her that "Do you really think I would be stupid enough to do that?" is not a smart thing to say in one's defense.

Finally, I note that your gal, while denying having anything to do with the complaint, always stops short of saying it has no merit. She seems to want to leave open in people's minds that maybe it does. It seems manipulative.

And if the complaint might have merit, no one should be threatening and swearing at me for suggesting that they "asked" the "question."

At this point the response is as damning as the facts surrounding the original incident. Very troubling.

never never has been known to stop at two, or five, sentences if a page or two of exposition, attachments, photos and etc would do a better job.

The IRS complaint included an attachment.

Like I say, you're not helping her.

"horse-shit" is never hyphenated. Not by cowboys, anyway.

And I've always considered it a colorful alternative to swearing, kind of like Bullfeathers.

I don't believe Amanda wrote the IRS letter, but she probably knows who did write it.

As far as I am concerned, anyone that accepts an illegal gift from government to run for office has earned themselves a lifetime of criticism unless and until they return it all to the public. The fact that the government has offered the illegal gift is a whole different inquiry than the acceptance, a personal choice. No "participating candidate" is free from their own personal moral taint to do much complaining about any other "participating candidate," let alone act as the government's paid mouthpiece against any non-participating candidate for their lack of participation.

Could libel that attaches to any participating candidate for their own actions be imputed to be that of the government itself? This is sort of a corollary to the issue of the imputation of personal libel from criticism of government:

Mister Tee, you can find "thunderstruck" in Rosenblatt v. Baer, 383 U.S. 75 (1966). Wherein, among other phrases, the court states "[a] theory that the column cast indiscriminate suspicion on the members of the group responsible for the conduct of this governmental operation is tantamount to a demand for recovery based on libel of government, and therefore is constitutionally insufficient."

Each candidate's personal choice to "participate" (including Dozono and Lewis, and the whole menagerie) to obtain hundreds of thousands of public dollars for their own personal quest to attain a position of power over others is not made into a harmless amoral A-OK thing to do merely because our auditor approves. I could argue that a "participating" candidate is converted into a "public official" for purposes of any libel action pertaining to their election conduct; as our auditor wishes to have a level of control (backed by a contract no less) that is nearly as expansive as that of any employer-servant contract.

I feel absolutely free to impute to our auditor any conduct engaged in by any participating candidate, as it is he who has the power to demand return of any donation, under the color of law; a power that exceeds even that of any private donor.

From the Douglas concurrence in Rosenblatt: "And how about those who contract to carry out governmental missions? Some of them are as much in the public domain as any so-called officeholder."

And: "If the term 'public official' were a constitutional term, we would be stuck with it, and have to give it content. But the term is our own, and so long as we are fashioning a rule of free discussion of public issues, I cannot relate it only to those who, by the Court's standard, are deemed to hold public office. "

And: "the question is whether a public issue, not a public official, is involved."

There is no greater harm to the reputation of Amanda Fritz posed by this post than she has thrust upon herself by becoming a "participating" candidate. Same too for Dozono and Lewis, so long as they wish to act as our auditor's mouthpiece, for a price. Can our auditor treat this all with the level of arbitrariness of that of an employer of an at will employee regarding a decision to fire them or not? He fundamentally misunderstands his role as the election official for the City of Portland to act as neutral arbiter of private contenders for public office, particularly his own position.

Justice Black paints a picture that is as back and white as my own view. "The article here sued on as libelous discusses the use of the public's money to take care of the public's business by a paid agent of the public." Amanda will have spent money in two campaigns that is enough to have obtained a legal education at least five times over . . but with nothing to show for it other than to "vindicate" the auditor's twisted view of free speech and free elections . . . without a demand for return of the money. It would not be unreasonable to subject her to the same level of intensity of workload and ridicule one might expect during fifteen years of legal instruction. (Not malice, just part of the job.)

Mr. Lewis and Mr. Dozono don't seem to "get it" either, as "participating" candidates.


Let's ask The Merc:

1) Can you state affirmatively, even when not under oath, that you have no knowledge of who it was that dropped off the complaint?

2) Can you state that you know who dropped it off, and that you still wish to preserve their identity, but that it was definitively not Amanda Fritz (or someone affiliated with her campaign)?

The Merc is in a unique position to answer the above two questions. Amanda Fritz has a motivation to at least ask, to ask them; if she places any value on her reputation. Surely they could volunteer the answer all by themselves.

What conclusion can I draw from the Merc not offering one peep here to back up Amanda's claim that it was not her? At least one inference can reasonably be drawn, on this I am certain.

Maybe it came in the mail.

Did the Merc say that?

"In an official IRS form that landed on my desk last week, an anonymous person alleged . . ."

An offer of riches landed on my desk, reportedly from someone in Nigeria that needs help getting money out . . .

How do you define reckless?

Can I expect them to print ten fictional accusations that I cause to land on their desk? If an anonymous someone made a reference to an anonymous charge in their comments would it receive less or more scrutiny?

If they answer "Huh, I don't know the name of my postal delivery person?" could I call them a hostile witness? (Perhaps they feel embarrassment for having wired some money to Nigeria, as they were asked to do? We are reckless dopes is a fine excuse; who'd dare to say we aren't.)

Lewis has also gotten attacked in a swift and nasty manner (for filling potholes, of all offensive things). It's a bit odd that all those who tread in Fritz's litter box garner such rapid anonymous rebukes. All acts scream "passive aggressive", a Fritz trademark. You're obviously getting somewhere if you've got people coming after you with bizarre threats... keep going... Is there a Peabody for blogging?

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