Judge Birtukan has Won the Vote and She Deserves the Invitation – By Belete Demissie

November 1st, 2010 Print Print Email Email

I read Ato Tibebe Samuel Ferenj’s article titled In the Defense of ESFNA. I disagree with his conclusion supporting the decision of Ethiopian Sport Federation in North America (ESFNA) about Judge Birtukan Mideksa’s invitation as a Guest of Honor. It appears that Ato Tibebe has misunderstood the Internal Revenue Code about section 501 (c) (3) organizations on which his decision is based.

The ESFNA leaders also have stated that they will lose their tax exempt or nonprofit status, if they invite Judge Birtukan. There is no such regulation and they are mistaken. I suspect that there is a misunderstanding of the Internal Revenue Code about nonprofit organizations that was quoted in Ato Tibebe’s article as follows:

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501 (c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
In plain language, what the above law is saying is: First, tax exempt or nonprofit organizations are not allowed to participate in political campaign. Second, nonprofit organizations are not allowed to make financial or material contribution to political campaign funds. Third, officials of nonprofit organizations are not allowed to make public statements on behalf of the organization about political candidates.
In conclusion, what is prohibited by the Internal Revenue Code is intervention in political campaigns by nonprofit organizations. Given that Judge Birtukan will not campaign for any political position, and will not request for political fund raising or endorsement the above mentioned code has no impact on the tax exempt status of ESFNA. Therefore, since Judge Birtukan has also won the first round of vote she deserves the invitation. I hope that the ESFNA’s Board of Directors will reconsider reinstating the first round of vote and invite her as their Guest of Honor.

Belete Demissie, CPA, MBA
Telephone (951) 849 – 5418

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