David Straz’s charitable foundation broke IRS rules on campaigning during Tampa Pride
The David A. Straz Foundation paid $10,000 to be a presenting sponsor in the Pride Parade, but Straz campaigners carried its signs.

Straz Pride 2
The IRS bans nonprofit organizations with tax-exempt status from engaging in political activity.

David Straz’s charitable foundation might have put its tax-exempt status in danger last month when it participated in the Tampa Pride Parade in Ybor City.

The David A. Straz Foundation was a presenting sponsor for the parade. That’s no big deal, but the people carrying the foundation’s banner are.

A group of about a dozen people supporting Straz in his mayoral bid carried the sign clad in the neon green Straz for Mayor shirts. Some wore campaign buttons supporting Straz’s campaign. Others carried Straz’s “Just Imagine” campaign signs.

They walked in front of and alongside Straz and his wife who were proudly waving to people along the parade route perched atop a red convertible sports car. Straz was also wearing the green campaign shirt, and his wife was wearing a campaign button.

That could be problematic for Straz’s charitable foundation. The IRS grants nonprofit organizations like Straz’s tax-exempt status. But one of the rules that come with that status is a ban on engaging in political activity, particularly advocating in favor of a candidate or political issue.

Per the IRS’s webpage explaining the restriction, “organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

Further, the foundation’s sponsorship in the parade and its use of campaign supporters sporting Straz for Mayor swag could constitute a political contribution because it used campaign staff advocating for Straz’s election in its participation in the parade.

The Straz campaign sponsored the annual event with at the $10,000 “bronze pirate” level, according to the Tampa Pride website.

If that’s the case, it could also be a campaign violation. Campaigns can only accept maximum contributions, including in-kind donations, are capped at $1,000.

The Straz Foundation listed $3.4 million in revenue in 2017 and assets exceeding $68 million.

Straz’s campaign has been marked by excessive spending, shattering any former Tampa mayoral campaign fundraising totals. Straz has put $4 million of his own money into the campaign and its affiliated Electioneering Communications Organization.

Critics have accused the retired banking mogul of trying to buy the election. Now his charitable foundation’s resources appear to be joining that effort.

A spokesperson for the Straz campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment through voicemail, email and a text message.

IRS violations of tax-exempt status are typically dealt with as a result of public complaints. The federal agency has a complaint process online. Tax-exempt organizations are also subject to oversight by State charity regulators and State tax agencies, according to the IRS.

Campaign finance violations are handled similarly through the Florida Division of Elections. Complaints there are typically not resolved until after an election is over and, depending on the severity of the offense, are subject to fines and, in rare instances, jail time.

The Jane Castor campaign declined to comment.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


One comment

  • gary

    April 11, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    WHAT??????

    A Democrat broke campaign laws? Are you kidding?

    All joking aside, The past month has revealed multiple campaign laws violated by Democrats.

    AOC took campain funds and funneled it to her boyfriend that she hired on in her office on the hill. VIOLATION

    Ilhan spent 6k on a divorce attorney. VIOLATION

    U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., is facing questions after campaign records revealed she paid herself $17,500 as a salary after the midterm elections, a violation of campaign finance rules. VIOLATION

    This just a list in the last 30 days, God forbid we look beyond 6 months into the last election cycle!

    Now, will any of these broken laws be honored with punishment?

    My money is on NO! Laws are for the serfs! And especially not the Democrats!

Comments are closed.


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