Project Veritas, the organization created by the controversial videographer James O’Keefe, has received charity status from the Internal Revenue Service.
Members of Mr. O’Keefe’s group applied for nonprofit status for Project Veritas in August 2010 to help raise money to pay for its hidden-camera exposés of groups like NPR and Acorn that it believes are dishonest. Its videos of NPR led the chief executive and chief fund raiser to leave their jobs within days of their release,
The IRS approved their application for tax-exempt status in April, according to documents from the tax agency. Donors who choose to give money to Project Veritas are now eligible to deduct the value of their donations on their federal income taxes.
With its tax-exempt status now in hand, Mr. O’Keefe’s group plans to expand its work in part by training people to expose misconduct and corruption in their hometowns.
“We’re pleased that Project Veritas’s nonprofit status has been approved,” Mr. O’Keefe told The Chronicle in an e-mail message. “Our nonpartisan mission of exposing corruption while training new, investigative journalists can now be fully supported by donors who require a tax-exemption for their generous contributions.”
Expects to Grow
The scope of Project Veritas’s work will largely rest on how much money the group is able to raise. Project Veritas said on its IRS application that it expects to collect $1.65-million over three years. But in a correspondence with the IRS in March, Kate Doner, then the group’s acting executive director, said Project Veritas is not yet raising money at that pace.
As of December 31, 2010, Project Veritas reported income of just $2,367. Its expenses totaled $2,200, which covered mailbox rental and Web-site fees, Ms. Doner wrote.
Shane Cory, who last month replaced Ms. Doner as its acting director, says the group is growing and that it expects to expand in the coming months.
“We’re hiring our first employee next week,” said Mr. Cory, who was the former director of operations for Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group. “We’re still building the organization.”
Mr. O’Keefe was to earn an estimated annual salary of $120,000 through his work with the group, according to its IRS application.
But Mr. Cory said that that salary was just a projection.
“He still has not drawn a salary to date,” Mr. Cory said.
Online Fund Raising
The group’s reported revenue from 2010 does not include donations given online at MEACTrust.org, a Web site that Project Veritas created for the Muslim Education Action Center, a fictional group used by Project Veritas as part of the undercover video sting involving NPR executives. After the video was released, the Web site revealed Project Veritas’s work and asked for donations from the public. The Web site says it has raised $38,068 from 512 donors.
IRS records show that Project Veritas is also planning to expand its fund-raising efforts.
In March the organization hired American Target Advertising, of Manassas, Va., to solicit money online and to build an e-mail database of potential donors.
American Target Advertising is headed by Richard Viguerie, a co-author of America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Over America and founder of the conservative Web site Conservativehq.com.
While Mr. O’Keefe’s investigations have focused on organizations that are targets of conservatives, Project Veritas said in its application with the IRS that it does not intend to use its tax-exempt status to influence legislation.
The IRS released the application, Form 1023, as well as supporting documents and correspondence between IRS officials and the organization, following a Freedom of Information Act request from The Chronicle.