NPR Publishes E-Mails From Top Staff Stating Problems With "Muslim Group's" Offer of $5 Million

NPR Publishes E-Mails From Top Staff Stating Problems With "Muslim Group's" Offer of $5 Million

NPR Publishes E-Mails From Top Staff Stating Problems With "Muslim Group's" Offer of $5 Million

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 10 2011 6:48 PM

NPR Publishes E-Mails From Top Staff Stating Problems With "Muslim Group's" Offer of $5 Million

In response to the second NPR sting released by Project Veritas, the network has released e-mails from last week which apparently verify what NPR had been claiming -- that the phony $5 million donation from the Muslim Education Action Center was never accepted. As they released the e-mails, NPR clarified that Betsy Liley's loose description of how the MEAC could donate to NPR was not true. "All donations – anonymous and named – are fully reported to the IRS," said NPR spokeswoman Dana Rehm.

Anyway: The e-mails. On March 3, then-NPR CEO Vivian Schiller sent an e-mail to colleagues about a potential problem with MEAC's non-profit status.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post. 

From: Vivian Schiller
Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2011 1:25 PM
To: Joyce Slocum; Betsy Liley; Debra Delman
Subject: MEAC


I spoke to Ibrahim. He says they ARE a 501c3. And then he added... "I think". I told him we would need to know for sure AND we would need to look at the 990 as we do for any first time donor. He stressed that they want confidentially and I told him what Joyce told me – that it would not need to be reported in the public part of the 990 but it would need to be reported to the IRS, including the name of the donating institution. He had questions on all of the above which I said I simply don’t have the expertise to answer but that one of our lawyers could. He repeated again that they want to deliver the check. I said that’s very generous but we really need to sort out these issues first. He said is there a problem – and I said I don’ know till we can see the 990. He seemed a bit worried that there was some subtext to our hesitation.

IN closing I suggested a call with Joyce and either him or their lawyers but he thinks we can do it be email. He will email me and we’ll see what up.

We should have a discussion about this gift this offline.

Later that day, "Omar Kasaam," who was posing VP of the group's board of trustees, e-mailed again about his interest.


From: Omar Kasaam []
Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2011 3:31 PM To: Vivian Schiller; Lori Opiotennione Cc: Ibrahim Halem Kasaam; Raja Zogbhi
Subject: Contributing to NPR

Dear Vivian,

Ibrahim informed me about your conversation earlier. It sounds as though the concerns you raised regarding tax status are minor enough, though before sharing some of the information your representatives have been asking for, we will of course need your promise of confidentiality - perhaps you have already granted it to Ibrahim, but please confirm.

On the other hand, information such as a list of our contributors is not possible I'm afraid - much the way NPR does not disclose its donors. If the interest in that information is a desire to solicit from our donors, I can assure you that we are already doing our best to raise funds on your behalf, and fund-raising on this issue has been quite fruitful for us given the ever rising specter of Islamophobia in America. I am also quite confident it will only become easier.

Based upon my experience and the confirmations of our legal counsel, none of this information is legally necessary from either an individual donor or an institution, but we will be happy to oblige on issues like tax status and 990's nonetheless.

Please feel free to work with Raja to arrange a time to speak with me further, if you prefer it to email - I'm told you have a time available tomorrow. It would be a great pleasure as NPR has become a priority for the Trust, and we are more than eager to help NPR fight back against the sensationalized, ratings-driven corporate media and their relentless efforts to sew mistrust and xenophobia among America's citizens.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Best Regards, Omar

On March 4, Joyce Slocum, the NPR general counsel who is now acting CEO of NPR, emailed the "Muslim Education Association" about the problem.

From: Joyce Slocum
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2011 11:00 AM
To: '' Cc: Vivian Schiller; Betsy Liley; ''
Subject: Contributing to NPR

Dear Mr. Kasaam,

We are very grateful for the kind consideration being given by the Muslim Education Action Center to a generous gift to NPR. I'm sure you will understand that we need to verify certain information with respect to any organization that proposes to make a significant gift to NPR. In the case of an organization that holds itself out as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, contributions to which are tax deductible, we need in particular to satisfy ourselves that the organization is in compliance with the applicable requirements of the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), so as to ensure against any risk of being caught up in later compliance activity. In most instances, we're able to verify this information without troubling the donor organization, by using publicly accessible information. Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate the necessary information about the Muslim Education Action Center, and so we need to ask that you provide it.

The Muslim Education Action Center does not appear in IRS Publication 78, which lists all organizations which have received a 501(c)(3) determination letter from the IRS, and whose status as a tax exempt organization has not been suspended or revoked. (Only churches are exempt from the requirement of obtaining an IRS determination letter, though even many churches voluntarily do so.) Since the Muslim Education Action Center does not appear in Publication 78, we need to ask for a copy of the IRS determination letter as to its 501(c)(3) status.

Also, most tax exempt organizations are required to file an annual form 990 in order to maintain their tax exempt status. Failure to file for three consecutive years results in an automatic revocation of tax exempt status. Again, because such organizations are required to make their three most recently filed annual 990 returns and all related supporting documents available for public inspection, we are usually able to obtain copies of these from the organization's own website, or if not there, from GuideStar or the Foundation Center. We have been unable to locate the 990's for the Muslim Education Action Center through any of these sources, so need to ask that you also provide those for our review.

I would very much appreciate receiving the requested items at your earliest convenience, so that I might review them and provide appropriate guidance to my client.

Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions or I may otherwise be of assistance.

Best regards, Joyce D. Slocum

On March 5, Schiller emailed Kasaam, supplementing the Slocum letter.

From: Vivian Schiller
Sent: Saturday, March 05, 2011 6:32 PM
To: 'Omar Kasaam'; Lori Opiotennione Cc: Ibrahim Halem Kasaam; Raja Zogbhi
Subject: RE: Contributing to NPR

Dear Omar,

Thank for your kind note and continued interest in NPR. Our General Counsel, Joyce Slocum, has sent you a note under separate cover with a few questions. We look forward to hearing back from you.

Kindest regards, Vivian

That's the last e-mail in the chain. NPR's representatives are polite, and never say they're going to flat turn down the money. They just hint, very politely and strongly, that they can't unless they know more. That doesn't satisfy the complaint that conservatives have here -- that the network should have turned down a donation from a group whose representatives were biased against Jews, etc -- but it validates what NPR's been saying.

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post.