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EXCLUSIVE: Media Matters’ Electioneering Against Larry Elder Broke IRS Rules, Complaint Says

Larry Elder

The conservative watchdog group Patriots Foundation filed an IRS complaint against Media Matters for America alleging abuse of its tax-exempt status.


The Iowa-based conservative watchdog group Patriots Foundation filed a new complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Monday against Media Matters for America (MMFA) arguing the tax-exempt group has violated its agency agreement with illegal electioneering.

Founded in 2004, the leftist non-profit was given 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status under IRS code which prohibits explicit campaign activity on behalf of any candidate or candidate’s party. In a supplemental complaint added to an existing referral over last year’s election, however, the Patriots Foundation argues the group’s interference in the California recall race violates IRS terms for tax exemption.

“MMFA has, from inception, operated as a thinly veiled partisan political organization supporting Democratic candidates for office and engaging in other improper activities,” the group wrote, outlining four parameters groups must follow in order to maintain their 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. They include avoidance of unnecessary references to any election; avoidance of unnecessary references to individuals’ candidacies; objective, factual analysis of candidates when they are referenced; and avoidance of candidate characterizations which may endorse or oppose them in the race. In a Media Matters article headlined, “Larry Elder is running to be California governor. Here’s just some of his toxic record as a radio host and right-wing pundit,” the Patriots Foundation explained, “each of these assurances have been abandoned.”

The watchdog group highlighted at least five other articles it said violated IRS guidelines for organizations covered under tax-exempt status, including one headlined “Larry Elder endorsed pregnancy discrimination, criticized governor for being a working mom.”

“California will be holding an election on September 14 to determine whether Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled and, if so, who should replace him,” the article read. “Elder has become the leading recall candidate based on polling and money raised. Elder has a long history of making toxic remarks as a commentator.”

The IRS wrote to the Patriots Foundation in May last year, a month after its first complaint, that the agency could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation into Media Matters based on past examples of electoral interference raised with the tax agency.

Since it was founded in 2004, Media Matters for America has served as the Gawker of political journalism, advocating for leftist causes to the point that its activism may have broken the law under IRS code. Founded by left-wing activist David Brock, the group was accused of violating IRS prohibitions on electioneering in the 2016 campaign through overt activism on behalf of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Now, its activism against Elder has further jeopardized the group’s 501(c)(3) status, painting the Republican recall candidate as a conspiracy theorist and radio spreader of fake news.