Critics Question Ward Connerly’s Pay Package

Critics Question Ward Connerly’s Pay Package

LANSING, Mich.

Critics of a planned 2006 ballot initiative that would ban affirmative action in government hiring and college admissions in Michigan are questioning whether the petition drive’s leader violated tax regulations.

Documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) show Ward Connerly as paid more than $1 million by his two tax-exempt nonprofit groups last year. IRS rules prohibit excessive pay to officers of such charities.

“This large percentage of a nonprofit operation going to the pockets of one person raises some very serious questions,” David Waymire, spokesman for a Connerly opposition coalition called Citizens for a United Michigan, told The Detroit News.

“The IRS doesn’t allow you to set up a tax-exempt organization to personally enrich yourself, and it looks to us like that’s what he’s doing,” said Waymire, whose organization includes the NAACP, AFL-CIO, Michigan Catholic Conference and several state businesses.

The News said Connerly did not return several phone calls to his Sacramento office. But Jennifer Hatges, an administrator at the American Civil Rights Institute, said the IRS is not reviewing or auditing the Connerly-led organization.

Connerly collected $339,663 in salary, $770,000 in speaker fees and $28,846 in benefits from the American Civil Rights Institute and the American Civil Rights Coalition in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2003, according to forms filed with the IRS.

Connerly’s compensation accounted for two-thirds of the charities’ $1.7 million in revenues, the documents show. By comparison, the two groups spent $29,655 on college scholarships.

State Rep. Leon Drolet, a Republican from Macomb County’s Clinton Township who has been active on behalf of the affirmative action ban in Michigan, defended Connerly.

“I don’t care whether he makes five cents or $5 billion. That’s beside the point,” Drolet said. “The point is getting the initiative done, and in that effort Ward Connerly has been a huge asset to us.”

—  Associated Press



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