As his role in the recent NPR controversy continues to develop, conservative filmmaker and self-proclaimed muckraker journalist James O'Keefe is seeking nonprofit status for his Project Veritas organization. However, O'Keefe's past may play a detrimental role in his attempt for tax-exemption.
Currently, the Project Veritas website features a section where viewers can donate, however it states that donations are not tax-deductible due to its pending nonprofit status.
Marc Owens, a Washington tax lawyer who has monitored tax-exempt groups with the IRS, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy that its application for 501(c)3 status may not be accepted due to O'Keefe's criminal record and his public statement that he'd "do it again." Owens said:
"If he is proposing to do something that is, in fact, illegal, can the IRS believe, with any degree of credibility, what he is saying? Is he going to continue to enter government offices illegally? He pled guilty to it once and said he would do it again. It's reasonable to conclude that the organization may be engaged in criminal activity in the future."
O'Keefe's most recent project involved a video that featured Project Veritas members posing as representatives of a fake Muslim Brotherhood organization offering NPR executives donation funds. The video recorded Ronald Schiller, NPR's senior vice president of development, making questionable remarks about political and religious groups.
Although NPR refused to take the donation offered, the subsequent media attention surrounding the video has put NPR funding in further jeopardy. Both Schiller and NPR CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation) have since resigned.