J. Laurens Tullock – Cornerstone Foundation Target of IRS Complaint
The following is a press release submitted to The Focus from Jennifer Owen for Knox County School Board District 2 Campaign – For immediate release (Friday, January 15, 2016, 3:52 p.m.)
Marianne Dedmon, Editor
Jennifer Owen, a candidate for Knox County Board of Education in District 2, has filed a “Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint (Referral) Form” with the Internal Revenue Service regarding emails sent by J. Laurens Tullock, President of the Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville. As a non-profit organization it is a violation of Internal Revenue Service regulations to endorse political candidates. Mrs. Owen believes the email Mr. Tullock sent on January 5, 2016, endorsing three candidates (including her opponent), violates these regulations because it was sent through Cornerstone’s email service and contained Mr. Tullock’s official Cornerstone signature information.
Additionally, Mr. Tullock sent this email to the Chairman of the Knox County Board of Education, Doug Harris and to Jamie Woodson, President of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) where Mr. Tullock serves on the Steering Committee with Dr. James McIntyre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools. Mrs. Owen believes this email requesting support and donations is a violation of IRS rules regarding political involvement. If all recipients complied with the request to fund one or more of these candidates, the amount involved in these three political races could be between $45,000 and $270,000.
Attached to this release (view here) is a copy of the email from Mr. Tullock as well as his response on a local blog, KnoxViews. Despite his admission to endorsing these candidates and the admission that it was somehow also posted on West High School PTSO’s Facebook page (another non-profit0, Mr. Tullock’s defense of the email falls flat. He says that he may endorse candidates as an individual and that the email sent from Cornerstone’s account was an error. However, his very formal, business signature, including his assistant’s contact information, is not the kind of thing one uses when sending personal emails.
Mrs. Owen has requested that the IRS review this situation fully.