Leaders of a ballot initiative to end bilingual education in Massachusetts filed a complaint against their opponents yesterday, claiming that the pro-bilingual campaign received an illegal donation from a Philadelphia nonprofit.
The complaint with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance states that the Committee for Fairness to Children and Teachers, or FACT, reported a donation of $100,000 from The Shefa Fund, a Jewish philanthropic foundation. The complaint charges that the donation is illegal because the fund is a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation that is prohibited by federal tax codes from donating to political causes.
”If this precedent is allowed to stand, we would expect millions of dollars in anonymous tax- deductible contributions to henceforth flow into all future Massachusetts political campaigns,” said Lincoln Tamayo, head of English for the Children of Massachusetts, which filed the complaint.
But an Internal Revenue Service spokeswoman said the contribution appears to be legal. The law forbids nonprofits like The Shefa Fund from donating to political candidates, but they can give money for lobbying purposes or political campaigns involved in a referendum like Question 2, the bilingual ballot question.
”They can participate in some lobbying activities as long as it’s not considered substantial, or can donate to an organization that would be doing something that would further their 501(c)(3) purpose,” said Peggy Riley, a spokeswoman for the New England office of the IRS. Sue Hoffman, associate director of The Shefa Fund, said the donation stemmed from the group’s activity in immigration and antidiscrimination efforts. A donor in Massachusetts alerted The Shefa Fund to Question 2, which would replace bilingual education with English immersion and is spearheaded by California millionaire Ron Unz.
FACT chairman Tim Duncan said Tamayo’s complaint lacks merit. ”They’re trying to distract people from the fact that 92 percent of kids in California (English immersion) didn’t learn English last year,” he said, adding that Unz has a nonprofit foundation that urges donors to ”support our efforts to require ENGLISH classes throughout America.” Unz said that foundation operates separately from his political organization, which donates to campaigns.