01.19.21

Whitehouse Calls on IRS to Review Right-Wing Group’s Non-Profit Status after Superspreader Events

Turning Point USA’s Mar-a-Lago Club gala put hundreds of young people at risk, Senate Finance member points out

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, wrote to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today to call attention to COVID-19 “superspearder” events organized by the right-wing non-profit Turning Point USA, including one held at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. The holiday gatherings went forward with total disregard for COVID-19 regulations and placed hundreds of young people at risk of infection. Whitehouse points out that the events violate IRS standards for non-profit organizations and may warrant forfeiture of Turning Point’s non-profit status.

“Tax-exempt status provides a substantial benefit to charitable organizations and reflects the federal government’s endorsement of an organization’s activities. Organizations that knowingly put in danger minors entrusted to their care should not enjoy the benefits of tax-exempt status. Accordingly, I urge the IRS to review whether it should revoke Turning Point USA’s tax-exempt status,” Whitehouse writes.

Turning Point USA is an organization that promotes far-right ideas to young people around the country. It has cultivated close ties to President Trump and the Trump family.

Full text of the senator’s letter is below. A PDF copy is available here.


January 19, 2021

The Honorable Charles P. Rettig
Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20224

Commissioner Rettig,

In late December 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic reached unprecedented levels, Turning Point USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promoted and held two large events for students and young people in Palm Beach Country, Florida, including a winter gala event at the Mar-a-Lago Club. According to press reports and social media posts, many participants gathered and mingled indoors without wearing masks, in violation of Palm Beach County’s COVID-19 regulations.[1] In holding these “superspreader” events, Turning Point USA knowingly exposed hundreds of young people and staff working at the events to serious risk of infection.

In light of these actions, the IRS should review whether Turning Point USA should continue to enjoy its tax-exempt nonprofit status. Established law has long held that an organization is not eligible for tax exemption under section 501(c)(3) if a purpose of the organization is contrary to public policy or is illegal.[2] IRS has established a three-part test to determine whether an organization’s activities are consistent with tax exemption under section 501(c)(3): (1) whether the purpose of the organization is charitable; (2) whether the activities are not illegal, contrary to a clearly defined and established public policy, or in conflict with express statutory restrictions; and (3) whether the activities are in furtherance of the organization’s exempt purpose and are reasonably related to the accomplishment of that purpose.[3] Turning Point USA’s reckless decision to host potential “superspreader” events, in open violation of local COVID-19 regulations, put children and others at risk, and was clearly contrary to the public good.

Tax-exempt status provides a substantial benefit to charitable organizations and reflects the federal government’s endorsement of an organization’s activities. Organizations that knowingly put in danger minors entrusted to their care should not enjoy the benefits of tax-exempt status. Accordingly, I urge the IRS to review whether it should revoke Turning Point USA’s tax-exempt status.