October 19, 2005
Would it be so wrong to point out that this sounds kinda fishy?
WASHINGTON, October 18, 2005 — A powerful member of Congress may have broken the law by not paying taxes on foreign trips paid for by a shadowy private foundation in large part bankrolled by the parent company of the Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurant chains, the Center for Public Integrity has discovered.
Rep. Richard Pombo, a California Republican who is chairman of the House Resources Committee, has taken at least two foreign trips costing more than $23,000 that were paid for by the nonprofit International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources.
Experts on tax issues said the law requires Pombo to return the costs of the foreign trips to the foundation. If not, both the foundation and the member of Congress could face stiff penalties from the IRS.
… Pombo said he did not pay taxes on his foreign trips. IFCNR does not indicate that it paid taxes on the trips anywhere on its publicly available tax documents.
… IRS records obtained by the Center show that the top donor to IFCNR is Darden Restaurants, an Orlando-based company that operates several national restaurant chains, including Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill and Seasons 52. Darden has given a total of $574,000 to IFCNR from 2000 through 2004, which was more than a third of its total support.
… IFCNR does not reveal its relationship with Darden or any of its other funders on its Web site, although articles defending and praising the activities of both Red Lobster and Pombo are featured prominently there.
IFCNR’s Web site includes a large number of articles that attack animal rights groups or defend corporations such as Darden and Monsanto.
… The Humane Society of the United States is singled out for some of the harshest criticism on the Web site. The group’s push to end Canadian seal hunts has included a snow crab boycott effort that in recent months focused on Red Lobster. One article on the Web site attacking the Humane Society over the boycott effort is titled “Target Red Lobster: A Lesson for Corporations & Others.”
Humane Society spokesman Michael Markarian said he is not surprised that IFCNR has criticized his group.
“As far as we can tell, they are committed to coming out against any sort of humane treatment of animals,” said Markarian. “They are for commercial whaling. They are for trapping. They include cock fighters as a resource management group.”
Fraudsters, too—David Wills, who handles the IFCNR’s financial affairs, was once jailed for embezzlement. And despite having no offices, the foundation’s 2003 tax filing lists as business expenses $17,400 for “Leasehold Improvements,” $5,815 for “Fence,” $4,163 for “Flooring,” and $2,000 for “Parking Lot.”
And then there’s Pombo, who, as the Center for Public Integrity points out, is also a piece of work. He recently pushed legislation through the House that critics claim will gut the landmark Endangered Species Act. And he has drawn fire for a working docu-ment drafted by staffers on a subcommittee of his House Resources Committee that suggests 16 national parks should be sold off for development to close a budget gap.
In other words, another all-star Republican.
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