2011/04/08 RFT: “Tobacco-Free St. Louis Faces IRS Complaint Over Lobbying, Campaign Contribution”

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This Riverfront Times story by reporter Sarah Fenske focuses on a complaint by O’Fallon Councilman Jim Pepper to the IRS over alleged illegal activities by the not-for-profit tobacco control group, Tobacco-Free St. Louis (TFSTL), led by Pat Lindsey. It follows a Riverfront Times story last month on the award to the group of funds for a campaign to help rein in smoking in the metro area.

That previous story, also noted below, follows this one for reference.

This attitude is symptomatic of some area legislators who cannot accept that secondhand smoke is an air pollutant which should be removed from public places and private workplaces. It also reveals the lengths to which individuals will go to harass those promoting smoke-free air.

Bill Hannegan is mentioned in the previous story as having told Daily RFT in March that he was also thinking of filing a similar complaint against TFSTL.

This reminds me of threatening e-mails sent to Missouri GASP last year by Bill Hannegan of KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE! and his supporter, Tony Palazzolo, warning of legal action against MoGASP after it conducted clandestine air quality measurements last September at the Double D Lounge in Brentwood in . See RFT 09/27/2010: “Clandestine Air-Quality Test Upsets Bar Owner, Smoking Ban Opponents”

Bill Hannegan sent me this e-mail after I’d alerted him to the test (e-mail addresses replaced by names below for privacy reasons):

From: Bill Hannegan
Subject: Re: DD’s Irish Pub & Karaoke, formerly Double D Lounge
Date: September 26, 2010 12:30:29 PM CDT
To: Martin Pion
Cc: Michael Marth, Scott Marth, Tony Palazzolo

Mr. Pion,

I have to warn you that there could be liability issues here. Be very careful about damaging the reputation of or injuring the business of the Double D Lounge or Marth Brothers with the results of tests conducted without the owner’s permission or cooperation.

Bill

Just the sort of friendly missive you’d expect from someone you’ve treated with respect, despite fundamental differences over secondhand smoke pollution.

Smoking Bans
Tobacco-Free St. Louis Faces IRS Complaint Over Lobbying, Campaign Contribution
By Sarah Fenske, Fri., Apr. 8 2011 @ 12:30PM 

Jim Pepper is complaining to the IRS that an anti-smoking agency has crossed the line.

O’Fallon Councilman Jim Pepper has followed through on his threat to complain to the IRS about the political work of Tobacco-Free St. Louis.
         Pepper yesterday filed a complaint with the IRS, charging that the non-profit organization, organized as a 501(c)3, is both engaged in excessive lobbying and involved with a political campaign. 501(c)3 organizations are only permitted to do an insubstantial amount of lobbying — a maximum of twenty percent of annual expenditures for small non-profits like Tobacco-Free St. Louis — or risk losing their non-profit status.
         As Daily RFT first reported March 8, Tobacco-Free St. Louis recently received a county contract (paid for by federal stimulus dollars, natch!) worth $545,000. The group was charged with “developing and implementing an education and advocacy plan to educate St. Louis County Council members about the need to remove exemptions from St. Louis County’s current smoke-free ordinance.”

         

Pat Lindsey, Tobacco-Free St. Louis

That sounded an awful lot like lobbying to us. But the group’s director, Pat Lindsey, has insisted to us that’s not the case. The exemptions to the county smoking ban are on the way out anyway, she told us — her group hasn’t lobbied, and no lobbying be needed.
         You can read her remarks in this blog post.
         Pepper saw our article; he told Daily RFT he was also concerned because the group donated money to the campaign to enact a strict smoking ban in O’Fallon.          Voters approved that ban on Tuesday, although Pepper has vowed to do whatever he can on the council to weaken it, water it down or otherwise castrate it.
         We’ll have more on this story as it develops, so stay tuned.

2 responses to “2011/04/08 RFT: “Tobacco-Free St. Louis Faces IRS Complaint Over Lobbying, Campaign Contribution”

  1. Seems confusing without seeing exactly what their proposed grant was for… and what they are doing for the money. If they are going against the rules, then maybe they should give up their 503c status and save face. The fact that “it would have passed anyway” seems lame.

  2. Mr. Pion, I stand by that e-mail of warning. If I had sneaked testing equipment into DD Lounge and then published the results, I am sure the owner would go after me as well. She is entirely the wrong person to jack with!

    I too am very disappointed with the failure of DD Lounge to be openly and cooperatively tested. An opportunity was lost.

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