While the IRS tells ROC it’s a union, ROC tells the Labor Department it’s an IRS-approved charity

For the pot banging, bullhorn screaming activists at ROC, the hits just keep coming. A few months ago ROC was run out of the ACA/Obamacare Navigator Program for hiring an undocumented immigrant to lead the effort, which resulted in another Congressional inquiry into the organization. Now, ROC again finds itself on the defensive for apparently misrepresenting its 501c3 non-profit status to the US Department of Labor (USDOL) while in pursuit of a $275,000 Susan Harwood grant.

While in the process of disputing the IRS’ assertion that ROC United should file as a 501c5 labor organization, the worker center applied for a grant — stating on the application that it was a “nonprofit with 501c3 IRS status”. Furthermore, ROC United submitted the IRS determination letter for a separate legal entity, ROC NY, in its application. ROC United was awarded the grant and began “work” before they resolved their status with the IRS. Whoops.

Maybe ROC figured the risk was worth the reward because they were desperate to fund staff salaries for their burgeoning national organization.

It’s hard to imagine that ROC didn’t knowingly mislead the USDOL bureaucrats because in their final communication with the IRS they stated: “[We would greatly appreciate expedited review as] a number of potential grants from foundations and charities, which are critical for ROC-U’s ongoing operation and success, currently depend on the Service’s determination that the Organization is entitled to 501(c)(3) status.”

As ROC appears at the White House today for the signing of the minimum wage executive order by President Obama, this episode raises many questions:

1. How did the USDOL, steward of Americans’ tax dollars, not know that ROC was ineligible for the grant?
2. How did the vetting process at the USDOL not include a simple check, first and foremost, if organizations were eligible?
3. Former Sec. Hilda Solis is facing tough questions over her close ties to unions and activists while at USDOL. ROC was also deputized as an arm of the USDOL through an “Alliance Program”. At what level was ROC approved for that program and for the grant?
4. How many more organizations that were part of the Susan Harwood grants, or other worker training grants, should have not received monies?
5. Did ROC knowingly mislead the USDOL when they submitted this information and lawyer and director Saru Jayaraman signed the application under “I am aware that any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or claims may subject me to criminal, civil, or administrative penalties”?
5. This is the second instance in a matter of months where ROC has misused taxpayer dollars. Given their track record, when will they be banned from receiving more?
6. ROC has been regularly participating in White House events. Did the White House weigh in on ROC’s involvement with the USDOL?
7. Is it appropriate that a taxpayer-funded group like ROC leads minimum wage ballot initiatives and routinely coordinates with top Congressional Democrats and the White House driving minimum wage as a 2014 midterm election issue?
8. Why is the IRS currently focusing on attacking 501c4 organizations for their political activities, rather than 501c3 organizations such as ROC?
9. How can anyone believe anything ROC says?

We eagerly await answers to all these questions and many more. Stay tuned.