IRS ‘outs’ handful of donors to Republican group

HCA, Healthsouth among donors to GOP nonprofit

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A handful of donors to the nonprofit Republican Governors Association Public Policy Committee got a rude surprise when the Internal Revenue Service mistakenly outed them by making available part of a tax form that is supposed to be kept private.

The Center obtained a copy of the group’s Form 990 from a website that displays tax returns online. The return included one page of the “Schedule B” list of donors which the IRS does not require to be made public.

The total donations on the page make up a small percentage of the $5 million the nonprofit took in for calendar 2011, but also provide a rare if limited glimpse at who — or what — funds political nonprofits.

Among the donors:

  • HCA Inc., the largest operator of private hospitals in the country, which donated $89,000.
  • Healthsouth Corp., one of the largest operators of rehabilitation services in the country gave $10,500. A 2003 investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the company  with systematically overstating its earnings. Two years later, the firm agreed to pay $100 million to settle the charges.
  • Boyden Gray, former U.S. ambassador to the European Union in the George W. Bush administration and White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush, gave $15,000. Gray is currently a board member of the conservative organization American Action Network.
  • David Humphreys, CEO of Missouri-based TAMKO Building Products, which manufactures materials for residential and commercial construction, gave $50,000. Humphreys is reportedly the second-largest donor to candidates in his home state since 2008, and is on the board of the Koch family-funded Institute for Humane Studies, a free-market economics center at George Mason University.
  • Robert Harris, president of a New Jersey consulting firm that advises drug and medical device companies, gave $50,000. Harris was selected to be on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s transition team as an economic development adviser in 2010.
  • James Haslam, chairman and chief executive of Pilot Flying J, the largest truck stop chain in North America, gave $10,000. Haslam’s brother Bill is the Republican governor of Tennessee.

HCA Inc.’s donations helped the RGA nonprofit oppose the implementation of the 2010 health care reform law even though the company supported the bill’s passage in March 2010. This year it has backed states that have accepted the Medicaid expansion funds that the law provides.

The Tennessee-based corporation has also given $300,000 to the RGA’s 527 group since 2010. 

The company, through spokesman Ed Fishbough, said it supports the RGA while “understanding we will not always have consensus” on “issues of concern.”

RGA spokesman Michael Schrimpf says that donor information is confidential, and “its partial disclosure by the IRS was erroneous and unauthorized. In fact, it is a felony to disclose the information.”

In an email to the Center, Grant Williams, a spokesman for the IRS wrote: “Federal privacy laws don’t allow the IRS to comment on specific situations or cases.”

The Center’s publication of the material is protected by the First Amendment.

Last year, the IRS also inadvertently released documents for a prolific nonprofit group Crossroads GPS, which the investigative outlet ProPublica published.