The Zionist Organization of America learned last week that its tax-exempt status had been reinstated, a year after it had been revoked by the IRS.
The development comes as the news that the IRS has been targeting conservative groups continued to roil Washington. The fallout has led to the forced resignation of the acting IRS chief commissioner, Steven Miller, and has put the Obama administration on the defensive. Congressional Republicans have vowed to press the issue further and Attorney General Eric Holder has said the IRS may have committed civil rights violations.
While ZOA clearly engages in political issues — and is on the hawkish side of Jewish and Israeli politics — officials state that its primary purpose is to educate the public about Middle East issues, qualifying them for tax-exempt status. The group no doubt considers itself conservative, but does not endorse candidates. It tries to covet friends on both sides of the aisle and has fiercely criticized both Republican and Democratic administrations, though it has attacked the Obama administration more frequently than the Bush administration.
ZOA received a letter from the IRS on May 15 informing the group that its tax-exempt status had been restored. The notification came just a few days before the group’s May 22 lobbying mission to Washington, D.C.
In February 2012, the group learned its status had been revoked after the organization had failed to file proper forms for three consecutive years. During that time, ZOA continued to fundraise and all of the money sat untouched in a donor-advised fund. ZOA National President Morton Klein, a Lower Merion resident, declined to say how much money it raised during this period. Now, the group is free to use those funds.
ZOA did not publicize the loss of its status; it was revealed publicly in a September story that appeared in the Forward. ZOA canceled its 2012 national gala, but has announced that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will headline its 2013 New York gala in November.
When asked whether he thinks his group was specifically targeted by the IRS, Klein responded: “I have no evidence that we were targeted,” he said, “although I found it deeply troubling that our proud, 100-year-old organization, that we were suddenly — without warning — abrogated.”