Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pittenger sends Graham's IRS allegations to House

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., said Wednesday he has forwarded Franklin Graham's charges of IRS harassment to the House Ways & Means Commitee.

In a statement sent to reporters, the Charlotte congressman said the alleged targeting of the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Boone-based Samaritan's Purse could be addressed on Friday, when the House committee is scheduled to question the IRS commissioner.

Franklin Graham heads both organizations, and he wrote the Tuesday letter to President Barack Obama charging that someone in the Obama administration "was targeting and attempting to intimidate us" for political reasons.

But Pittenger cast the IRS reviews of the two charities as a "questionable investigation" of 94-year-old Billy Graham, who's now retired.

"Billy Graham's life and ministry have been built upon a bedrock of the strictest ethics and highest moral standards," Pittenger said in his statement. "If these allegations are true that the IRS targeted the BGEA, the IRS should be held accountable for forcing two respected ministries to divert donations to defend a politically-motivated attack."

The elder Graham was prominently featured in full-page newspaper ads the BGEA took out last year to urge N.C. voters to approve a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage and support candidates who stood for "biblical values."

Franklin Graham told the president in his letter that the ads were paid for "with designated funds given by friends of our ministry for this purpose."

The IRS visited the offices of the BGEA and Samaritan's Purse last October for reviews of the tax year ending in 2010, Graham said in his letter.

After the election, the IRS did notify Graham to affirm the two N.C. charities' tax exempt status.

Still, Graham told Obama he's now convinced that the reviews of his groups were part of a broader targeting of conservative groups by the federal tax agency.

-- Tim Funk