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National Tax March Planners Lean Left as April 15 Events Near

Posted on April 7, 2017 by Luca Gattoni-Celli

The National Tax March group says it plans to invite Republican lawmakers to join April 15 demonstrations demanding the release of President Trump’s tax returns, although principles outlined for its headline event in Washington envision a progressive overhaul of the U.S. tax system and spending priorities.

Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., "tried to take health care away from 24 million people -- and because millions of Americans like you stood up to say, ‘I don’t think so’ -- they failed,” the group said in a mass email March 27, referring to the March 24 collapse of the American Health Care Act.

“As it says on the website, this march isn’t just about his tax returns,” Robert O’Donnell, National Tax March spokesperson, said in an email, adding that Trump’s failure to release them perfectly illustrates how “the rich and well-connected always seem to get to play by their own rules."

“Our principles speak to that reality,” O’Donnell said, “that this is a fight to make sure that the President is putting the American people first,” ahead of any entanglements and other priorities. The public is entitled to “see clearly how much [Trump], his businesses, and his creditors stand to benefit from his tax policy proposals,” O’Donnell added.

Those principles include a more equitable tax system that favors the wealthy and corporations less while promoting “good jobs and thriving communities,” according to the National Tax March website. The group calls for ending corporate tax loopholes, including incentives for multinationals that shift jobs and profits out of the United States, and collecting more tax revenue to fund public investments such as infrastructure and education.

“Tax Day reminds us that a strong and prosperous society requires that everyone contribute,” the organizers said. “We call on our leaders, at every level of government, to recognize that we all prosper when these fundamental public investments have the resources they need, and that those with the most, having benefitted the most, should contribute the most.”

O’Donnell indicated that march organizers were prepared to rebuff any attempts by Trump to paint the April 15 protests as partisan, saying the group plans “to invite Republican members of Congress who have joined the chorus of voices demanding Trump release his tax returns.”

However, O’Donnell criticized Republicans and Congress, saying their votes on the issue “have unfortunately signaled that they are not willing to take real steps to hold the president accountable.” Senate Finance Committee ranking minority member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland are scheduled to address the Washington march event, according to a speaker list released April 5, which did not include any Republican lawmakers.

“We also know that this isn’t a partisan issue,” O’Donnell said, pointing to a January ABC News/Washington Post poll that found 53 percent of self-identified Republicans believed Trump should release his tax returns.

National Tax March organizers do not expect to match the estimated 500,000 participants in the January 21 National Women’s March in Washington, but O'Donnell said they are planning for thousands of marchers in Washington April 15. For a more specific figure, he pointed to the event’s Facebook page, which as of April 6 had more than 9,200 Facebook users RSVPing to attend the Washington protest and more than 41,400 indicating potential interest in doing so.

Fiscal Sponsorship

The section 501(c)(4) group Sixteen Thirty Fund is acting as fiscal sponsor for the National Tax March, said Steve Sampson of Arabella Advisors, which advises on progressive philanthropy and social entrepreneurship.

O’Donnell said the Sixteen Thirty Fund is helping administer funds for the National Tax March, but that “budgeting for event expenses is taking place within the executive committee” of the National Tax March. Sampson and other representatives of Sixteen Thirty downplayed its role in the tax march and emphasized that its fiscal sponsorship of various groups was fundamentally unremarkable.

“One hundred percent of the funds raised for the march pay for the march and any expenses incurred, including staging, safety, and cleanup,” O’Donnell said, adding that the National Tax March has not formed a legal entity and is not seeking tax-exempt status from the IRS. He also confirmed that the group’s eight-member executive committee, listed on taxmarch.org, is receiving no compensation.

However, he left the door open for the group to remain active after April 15, telling Tax Analysts, “Stay tuned. We are discussing how to use the enormous enthusiasm around these issues in the important fights ahead.”

Sixteen Thirty “hosts dozens of social welfare projects that conduct public education, advocacy, and other campaigns to support progressive policies,” Sampson said in an email. “It often, as in the case of the Tax March, administers charitable contributions for the projects it hosts.”

One of those projects is Make It Work Action, which along with Sixteen Thirty Fund is tied to roughly $200,000 of independent expenditures during the 2016 election cycle supporting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, as well as modest spending against Trump’s candidacy, according to Federal Election Commission records.

“Projects housed within a 501(c)(4) fiscal sponsor can legally engage in independent expenditures, and projects housed at the Sixteen Thirty Fund have, in the past, contributed in this way to help educate the public about candidates for elected office,” Kelly Bronk of Arabella said in an email. She noted that the fund’s primary purpose is fiscal sponsorship of projects that support progressive policies.

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