Updated: July, 9, 2013, 3:23 PM
A government watchdog on Tuesday accused a prominent conservative lawyer of breaking the law and owing the IRS millions of dollars.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a whistleblower complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against James Bopp, Jr.; his law firm, the Bopp Law Firm; and the James Madison Center for Free Speech, a non-profit where Bopp serves as general counsel.In its complaint, CREW accuses the James Madison Center of being “little more than a front for, or ‘alter ego’ of, the Bopp Law Firm,” showing how “virtually all of [the James Madison Center’s] revenue is passed on to the Bopp Law Firm to fund the legal services by Bopp and his associates.”
“As the head of JMCFS, Mr. Bopp diverted nearly all of JMCFS’s funds to his own law firm in violation of prohibitions against using charitable organizations for private inurement and private benefit,” CREW said in a press release announcing the complaint. “As a result, JMCFS and the Bopp Law Firm now owe the IRS more than $6.2 million in back taxes. Further, by repeatedly signing and submitting to the IRS inaccurate tax forms, Mr. Bopp may have made false statements in violation of federal criminal law.”
CREW has also asked the Indiana attorney general, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of Indiana, the Indiana secretary of state, and the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to investigate the matter. (The James Madison Center and the Bopp Law Firm share an address in Terre Haute, Indiana.)
Bopp has been called the legal mind behind the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, his firm’s website describes Bopp as a “dedicated to the advancement of conservative Republican principles, policies, politics, and defending individual liberties by providing focused legal guidance for the management of political campaigns, campaign finance, public policy initiatives, First Amendment rights and litigation strategies.”
TPM reached Bopp for comment on Tuesday afternoon. Bopp said he had not yet had a chance to read CREW’s full complaint.
“It sounds like a rehash of the Slate article that was published about 6 months ago,” Bopp said, referring to an article published in October. “And of course, once you look into it, it’s nothing. What it boils down to is, I’m the only one that does any work [for the James Madison Center], so I’m the only that gets paid. The Madison Center is a litigation support group, they have hired me to handle their litigation — the vast majority of which I do pro bono, as well as handle the administration, like filing tax returns and stuff like that, I do pro bono.”
At any given time, Bopp said, his firm handles about a dozen cases for the Madison Center cases. Most of those, he said, are worked for free. Donors can make contributions to the James Madison Center to support certain litigation. Bopp compared the set up to the workings of the NAACP and the ACLU, and he did not expect anything to come of CREW’s complaint.
“Do you see a single press release [on CREW’s website], that any of their complaints have ever been found to be meritorious by anybody?” Bopp said. “No, you don’t. This is a complaint machine.”