Richard Spencer's white supremacist group just lost its tax-exempt status

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

White supremacist organizer Richard Spencer has collided with something that might smart a little more than a punch to the face: The revocation of his organization's tax-exempt status by the IRS.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday evening that Spencer's National Policy Institute, the quasi-academic think tank behind a notorious Washington, D.C., conference in November, has lost its tax-exempt status after the paper inquired whether Spencer had filed proper paperwork to fundraise in Virginia.

After Spencer took helm of the organization in 2011, the National Policy Institute apparently stopped filing its required IRS returns in 2012 and did not do so for the next three years. Any organization that fails to file tax returns for three years automatically loses its tax-exempt status under IRS rules. The IRS stripped the National Policy Institute of its tax-exempt status retroactively as of May 15, 2016, the date NPI's 2015 return would have been due.

Virginia charity regulators have additionally "removed the entry for the National Policy Institute from their public database of nonprofits and began a review, which remained active as of Monday," the Times reported.

The Times also inquired whether Spencer's repeated endorsements of President Donald Trump and solicitation of funds to "fight against Hillary Clinton" would have violated 501(c)(3) nonprofit rules prohibiting partisan speech "in official organization publications or at official functions of the organization." But Louisiana State University law professor and former IRS attorney Philip T. Hackney told Times "as a technical matter, they can't have violated the provision, because they weren't a charity anyway."

However, the political comments may come back into play if Spencer asks the IRS to reinstate its tax-exempt status, which is not automatic and requires IRS review.

Spencer's defense was not exactly encouraging. "I don't know what to say," he said to the Los Angeles Times. "I don't want to make a comment because I don't understand this stuff. It's a bit embarrassing, but it's not good. We'll figure it out."

At the Washington, D.C., conference, Spencer toasted the rise of the Third Reich and told attendees, "Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!" to a slew of Nazi salutes.

The rise of the alt-right, the loosely organized and mostly digital network of far-right and racist activists that sprung to prominence during the presidential election, has likewise brought high-profile coverage to Spencer. But his most visible moment in the public eye was likely during Trump's inauguration in January, when an anti-fascist organizer punched Spencer in the face during a video interview. In February, security booted Spencer out of CPAC, the prominent conservative political convention.

Spencer did not respond to a request for comment from Mic.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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