Sheriff Morgan Campaign: LETF Out, Donations In

Sheriff Morgan Campaign: LETF Out, Donations In

Sheriff Morgan uses the Law Enforcement Trust Funds for many reasons.  He apparently provides funds for deserving organizations, like the $50,000 he provided to Gulf Coast Kids House, which cares for abused children, to expand the facilities because they were operating at twice their operational capacity.

Or, sometimes he gives money to the haves so that they have more, like the AFCEA Blue Angels that received $20,000, on March 3, 2015, according to the Law Enforcement Trust Fund expenditures given to CJ’s Street Report’s public records request.  Or, the $15,000 Sheriff Morgan gave to the National Flight Academy after he gave he speech there.  The donation was made on March 25, 2014.

Or, he gives money to his ideological allies in the Christian Right in Pensacola.

Like the $10,500 he gave to the Assembly of God’s Teen Challenge, also known as the Pensacola Men’s Center, for “drug treatment” that is a cover for outright Christian proselytizing.

Like the $5,000 he gave to the Men’s Barn Meeting which functions as a networking hub linking Baptist churches in the local area to Southern Baptist Convention leaders in the Christian Right.

Like the $7,000 he gave to the Alabama-based Youth Reach Gulf Coast, despite the organization not having provided any services to any youth or young man from Escambia County, Florida.

When advised by Americans United for Separation of Church & State that these specific donations violated the U.S. and Florida constitutions, the response of the Sheriff’s Office was that they were not going to respond to the Americans United’s legal inquiry.

Or, he gives money to worthwhile causes and the person receiving the Law Enforcement Trust Funds then later makes a donation to Sheriff Morgan’s re-election campaign, as happened when Sheriff Morgan authorized a rapid donation of $1,000 for the non-existent Light the Night Foundation (in reality the Alabama-based Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with no business license in Florida) that was delivered to Pete Moore.  Pete Moore and his wife later made two $500 donations to Sheriff Morgan’s campaign.  Pete Moore gives to Republican sheriffs and candidates, so the $1,000 donated from the Sheriff’s Office is not a factor.  But, it does not look good.  While there is no quid-pro-quo here, it is amazing the Sheriff can write a donation check to a non-existent foundation.

And, now we have Sheriff Morgan’s re-election campaign using the property owned by the Filipino-American Association of Pensacola, Inc., a 501(c)3 organization for his fundraising event on September 26, 2015.

Not only is the Filipino-American Association a 501(c)3 organization that is prohibited from engaging in politics, but in 2014 it received $7,000 in two donations:  $2,000 on May 28, 2014 (reference V10719) and $5,000 on August 26, 2014 (reference V11991).  CJ’s Street Report has a public records request for all the documentation, plus any donations made to the Filipino-American Association since October 1, 2014.

Again, while there is no quid pro quid, we find the same pattern of Law Enforcement Trust Funds going to an organization that, in turn, provides a venue for a fundraising event tapping its own members for donations.

Thus, while there is no doubt that the Filipino-American Association does fine work in the community and has been recognized by the county and state officials for their good works–as evidenced by the plaques expressing support on one of the walls of the hall–the fact is the organization is prohibited from engaging in political activity.

Here is the Internal Revenue Service’s guidance on political activity:

“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.”

Thus, a 501(3) organization is “absolutely prohibited” from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign.”  There really isn’t much wiggle room to “absolutely prohibited” and “directly or indirectly.”  How Sheriff Morgan convinced them Filipino-American Association to violate this IRS guidance is a mystery.

CJ’s Street Report attended the fundraising event for a very short time.  Upon my third entrance, Deputy Chief Haines congratulated me for my “valiant attempt” to attend the fundraising event, but I was informed it was a “private function” and I was not welcome.  However, before being graciously and humorously turned away, I did manage to take photographs of the event and keep my receipt.

The sign outside the front door.
The inner door decorated with “Re-elect Sheriff Morgan.”  Once inside the door, you gave your donation via check and received a receipt.
Although my check was returned, I kept the receipt.  The receipt reads, in part:  “You are cordially invited to a candidate Fundraiser to re-elect David Morgan For Escambia County Sheriff….Hosted by Virgil Domingo and Friends AT the FilAm Center, 234 Oakfield Rd, Pensacola, Fl.”
Stage and dais where Sheriff Morgan was to speak at the event.
Long view of the stage with more “Re-elect Sheriff Morgan” signs.

Sheriff Morgan’s website invitation to the event begins, “Back by popular demand…Karaoke fundraiser on September 26th.  Besides Karaoke, there will be dancing, socializing, and Filipino Food.”

Now, Karaoke night just happens to be one of the Filipino-American Association’s fundraisers, according to Form 990s filed with the Internal Revenue Service.  In 2011, Karaoke brought in a net of $2,193.05.  In 2012, the Filipino-American Association spent $3,100.95 on Karaoke equipment and tables, and brought in a net of $2,144.06.  In 2013, Karaoke night brought in a net of $1,084.25.

Thus, when Sheriff Morgan’s invitation exclaimed, “Back by popular demand…Karaoke fundraiser,” he was clearly referencing an annual fundraising event put on by the Filipino-American Association that over the past three years had netted the organization $5,421.36 or an average of $1,807.12 per year.  Except this year, checks were to be made payable to the “Re-elect Morgan Campaign.”

Why would Sheriff Morgan not do his due diligence and recognize that giving at least $7,000 to a non-profit corporation and then having them host via their own venue a campaign fundraiser would not raise questions, and, why would he not consider what effect, if any, that campaign fundraiser would have the Filipino-American Association’s tax-exempt status?

One possible answer is that Sir David Morgan simply does not believe that the U.S. Constitution, the Florida constitution, and Internal Revenue Service regulations apply in Pensacola.

Another possible answer is that the officers and board members of the Filipino-American Association (as reported on the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Form 990s) have personally donated to Sheriff Morgan $1,740.  Thus, he may have deliberately targeted the Filipino-American Association’s board and officers for the fundraiser knowing that they personally support his candidacy and might not consider the possible ramifications.

One last observation, apparently, this hyphenated name, Filipino-American, does not upset Sheriff Morgan as the term “African-American” to him is dysfunctional and “divisive.”

NOTE: Ms. Jimmie Staley co-authored this report.

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