SBC’s Frisch responds to Barry Pruett’s attack on the business nonprofit

If my wife were the representative of our congressman, I’d mind my own business — and just go about my business. After all, no matter what your politics, you’re supposed to reach out to all your constituents. But Barry Pruett, whose wife is our conduit to Congressman Tom McClintock, sees things differently.

After losing every precinct in our county in the race for clerk-recorder (while running a negative campaign), Barry has decided to attack some of our hard-working citizens and nonprofits.

The latest example: the Sierra Business Council, a member-based organization of over 700 individuals and businesses who are committed to pioneering innovative solutions in the Sierra Nevada. The group’s roots go back to 1994.

SBC President Steve Frisch wrote an op-ed article for The Union and Auburn Journal arguing against Prop. 23, which would effectively rescind the “Global Warming Act.” It was a credible argument for this perspective, whether you agree or not. In our neck of the woods we have to take this issue seriously. Read it for yourself.

But instead of attacking the issue, Pruett attacked Frisch and the SBC (as did right-wing bloggers Russ Steele, George Rebane and their sympathizers). He posted a blog item titled “Is Sierra Business Council Violating IRS Law Related to Lobbying Activities”? There was no comment from the SBC or Frisch. (For the record, McClintock is leading the effort to support Prop. 23). Other Pruett sympathizers chimed in. Details are here.

As for the allegations, the IRS rules that Pruett supplied proved his point was wrong: “In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.”

How was Frisch’s op-ed article a “substantial” part of its activities to influence legislation? The group is involved in many dozens of projects in the Sierra.

Frisch responded on this blog:

•Michael (Anderson), SBC does not have a 501 (h) designation. We have a 501 c 3 designation. We are allowed to take positions on issues, but not candidates. We can do public education. This is public education. We also specifically track all activities that can be construed as lobbying. We are on solid ground. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

•More than 60 percent of our direct revenue comes form non-grant funded sources, and half of our grant funding comes from the private sector. I provide a valuable public service and I have no reason to be ashamed of that. I am proud of it. I provide services few other organizations in the country can provide. We are good at our work, and have a young, talented, brilliant staff. I have the best job in the world and I love it.

•By the way the Sierra Business Council was self sustaining enough for Russ Steele to be a member for several years, and attend our week long leadership training seminar that was funded by—you guessed it, a government grant at the time.

As I’ve been arguing for a while, the extreme right in our community — led by the likes of Pruett, Russ Steele and George Rebane — has been trying to tear us apart. Barry’s baseless attack on the SBC is just the latest example.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

5 thoughts on “SBC’s Frisch responds to Barry Pruett’s attack on the business nonprofit”

  1. I just posted this over on Russ Steele’s blog and thought I woudl cross post here:

    “Steven Frisch said…

    Thought I would take a second to enlighten the great barrister, Barry Pruitt.

    I love a question like “Is Sierra Business Council Violating IRS Law Related to Lobbying Activity?”

    The answer is “I stopped beating my wife last week.”

    Really you should be ashamed of yourself.

    SBC is a 501(c)3. We do not have a 501 (h) designation. We are allowed to make statements on issues. We do so as an organization occasionally. We have pretty good legal representation who I have conferred with regarding non-profit lobbying. We keep very careful track of any expenses that could even remotely be considered lobbying. We are 100% within the letter of the law. If the IRS has any questions about our lobbying expenses they can ask me when I file my taxes for 2010 in mid 2011. I will have every
    receipt logged and hour accounted for. We run a tight ship.

    I knew that by publishing a legitimate public policy statement from our organization I would be opening us up to some criticism. I don’t mind being criticized for our positions. I say let the debate go on and in the end the truth will be clearer to more people. I just don’t do it here, because Russ did not take threats of violence off his site for days after a specific complaint, or on your blog, because I really don’t see the point.

    By the way I would love to see the police report on Todd’s attack as well. My guess is it does not exist (kind of like Obama’s birth certificate:).
    I’ll make you a deal Todd, you show me the police report and a sword statement from an officer of the court that it is a legitimate record, and I will donate $1000 to CABPRO.

  2. This seems to be a running theme with this group (the allegations against Sharon Rose, discussed on another post today): Napoleonic law (guilty until proven innocent). It forces you to defend your character. As Elton John would say: “Rotten peaches rotting in the sun.”

  3. I found this on the home/landing page of Pruett’s Blog:

    “I graduated from Miami University in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree with majors in Russian Language and DIPLOMACY & Foreign Affairs.” EMPHASIS In Caps Added.

    Certainly made me smile.

  4. Congressman Tom McClintock needs to wake up to the fact that Barry Pruett and his blogging is making Tom Mcclintock look like a clown!

    IF Barry was smart he would keep off the blogs so his wife doesn’t lose her job over his insanity.

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