Accuracy in Media

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, a controversy has broken out over whether the conservative magazine National Review is a non-profit entity that violated tax laws by attacking Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as a fake conservative.

A libertarian commentator is claiming that National Review is a non-profit entity that violated tax laws with its “Against Trump” editorial and collection of commentaries from various conservative personalities. But Jack Fowler, publisher of the magazine, says the claims are based on misinformation about the magazine’s tax status. He tells AIM that National Review is not tax-exempt itself, but is owned by a tax-exempt institute. Indeed, the “donate” page for the on-line version of the magazine does not promise tax-deductibility for contributions.

At the website of Chronicles, a competing conservative publication, Justin Raimondo cited claims that National Review is tax-exempt and said, “This anti-Trump issue of National Review is, in effect, a campaign pamphlet directed against a political candidate—indeed, the cover proclaims ‘Against Trump’—and, as such, is in clear violation of IRS statutes regulating nonprofit organizations.”

He cited a story last year from Politico, which reported that National Review was becoming a nonprofit organization, which would make it exempt from federal taxes. The article also noted that it was merging with the nonprofit National Review Institute (NRI), its sister organization. The apparent purpose of the change was to save money for the magazine and encourage donations.

Also citing Politico, Eric Wemple of The Washington Post said, “The magazine last year became a nonprofit organization so that its contributors could enjoy the tax benefits of their generosity.”

If true, the publication of the material attacking Trump would represent a potential violation of the IRS tax code. An exemption from federal taxes means the organization is prohibited from endorsing or opposing candidates for office.

On the left side of the political spectrum, The Nation magazine has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), but it remains separate from The Nation Institute, which is non-profit and tax exempt.

The anti-Trump editorial in National Review, signed by the editors, said Trump was “not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries,” in part because his political opinions “have wobbled all over the lot.” Several conservatives wrote their own articles attacking Trump.

Fowler said National Review is the same entity that it has been for 60 years, since it was founded by William F. Buckley, Jr. The difference is that “We are now owned by the National Review Institute,” he said. Fowler said that the two entities have separate boards and separate sources of revenue.

The National Review Institute’s 2015 year-end newsletter called the change “a major institutional transformation.” It said, “On August 1, 2015, NRI and National Review underwent a significant reorganization: the magazine and website—corporately, National Review, Inc.—became a wholly owned subsidiary of National Review Institute. This is good—very good—not only for NRI, but also for National Review. This organizational transition will allow NR to remain consequential for decades to come and allow it to do what it does best—publish hard-hitting, thoughtful, and witty pieces from today’s best conservative writers.”

Some of the confusion may stem from what is said elsewhere on the website of the National Review Institute. It says the magazine and the institute “joined forces so that the entire National Review enterprise,” including the magazine’s editorial activities and the institute’s educational programs, could have a greater impact. It adds, “All aspects of the National Review family will be combined within one entity.”

Based on this part of the website, which is devoted to opportunities for jobs at the institute, it would appear that the magazine and the institute became one and the same, apparently some time last year.

But that’s not the case, Fowler said. Instead, it appears one is now a subsidiary of the other.

It was not immediately clear how National Review could legally become part of a non-profit, which is supposed to be “educational,” while pursuing partisan and political activities apart from its parent company.

In any case, the overlap between the two entities is significant. The National Review Institute says it “supports” National Review writers, such as the “widely popular and increasingly influential” Charles C.W. Cooke. It was Cooke who made an appearance on MSNBC to lead the National Review charge against Trump, calling the billionaire businessman a “con-man” and “charlatan.”

Commenting on Sarah Palin’s “rotten endorsement” of Trump, Cooke suggested it was all about staying in the spotlight and making money. He declared, “That Palin and Trump are together at last is no accident of ideology or timing; rather, it is the inevitable and rational confluence of two ghastly cults of personality—a fat-cutting, cash-saving merger that will serve to increase overall market share.”

It appears that Cooke is a British citizen who can’t even vote for or against Trump. His personal website says that “He emigrated to the United States in 2011 and lives in Connecticut with his wife, and their dog, a black labrador named Oakley.” He asks for personal donations for his work through PayPal.

While National Review argued that Trump had “wobbled” on conservative matters, Cooke has emerged as a major supporter of same-sex marriage, a position opposed by most conservatives. He argues in his book, The Conservatarian Manifesto, in favor of homosexual marriage, saying, “there is more to be gained by including gays in the institution [of marriage] than by keeping them out.”

For his part, Trump called National Review a failing publication and accused some of those writing articles against him of having asked for his money or wanting him to go on their radio and TV shows. When he refused, he said, they turned against him.

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  • Tax exempt is tax exempt. There’s no weasel-words that can change that.

  • Kelsonus

    Such a non story

  • RMThoughts

    The conservative movement inspired by Dr. Russell Kirk, whose the older, scholarly “conservatism” is long gone. Conservatism, as we knew it, had a distrust of liberal democracy, opposition to egalitarianism, and reluctance to commit the United States to global “crusades” to impose American “values” on “unenlightened” countries around the world.

    Former Leftist and ex-Trotskyite intellectuals and writers made their new home in the older conservative movement and became “mugged by reality” Neoconservatives. At first the Neocons were welcomed. The problem was, and still is, that the Neocons brought with them not only their welcomed and spirited anti-Stalinism communism, but also their intellectual egalitarianism, global revolution internationalism, and rejection of cultural tradition, they infected the conservative movement with their liberal and global interventionist foreign policy

    Neocons soon took control of most of the older conservative foundations, think tanks, and publications with an iron hand. The old Pat Buchanan conservatives were ridiculed as paleo. They took over publications like Commentary, The Public Interest, and National Review which shed its previous attachments to the older conservatism. With the triumph of the Neocons, conservatism soon no longer. The principles which so characterized the Old Right were replaced with an ideological zeal for the very opposite of those principles making such aberrations as same sex marriage and feminism, and “regime change” mainstream. What TNR calls “conservatism” today has not been truly conservative in the traditional sense for a long time now.

  • Lockstein13

    No, Nat’l Review is most decidedly NOT “under fire;” but Trump IS.
    “You know you’re over the target when you’re catching flak.”

    In comparison, the Nat’l Review has simply jumped the shark.

    *TRUMP 2016*

  • Steven Barrett

    “Intellectual egalitarianism” … RM, would you please rephrase that down (quite) a bit? Whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, Neocons have hardly demonstrated even a smidgen of intellectual humility and genuine curiosity. Russell Kirk, whom I was honored to briefly meet when I interned at the National Journalism Center, (Spring ’83) when it was under control of its founder, Stan Evans, knew more about politics and especially conservative philosophical values than all of today’s Republican shallow ideologues, must be turning in his grave. No, make that gyrating. Real conservatives don’t believe in throwing out the rules of civilized conduct, much less policy-making that’s based solely on whomever has the most bucks and guns wins, but today’s shallower poll-driven garden variety sure as hell do. No wonder Trump’s getting away with his schtick because for the past 33 years, “leaders” having the chutzpah to package themselves off as “conservatives” are allowed to keep getting away with this nonsense. RIP Russell Kirk and Wm. F. Buckley, e/a.

  • RMThoughts

    National Review did not purge Donald Trump from the Conservative Movement. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “purge” as “an abrupt or violent removal of a group of people from an organization or place.”

    It is because the purger has to have the power to remove the unwanted actor and that the purged was part of the entity to begin with. National Review does not have that power—least of all over Trump.

    GOPe are beginning to realize, while Donald Trump describes himself as a conservative, he never pretended to be part of the “Conservative movement”. Most infuriating to the National Review and Conservatism Inc., he has not changed his positions or rhetoric to fit within their pet causes nor has he begged for the money and endorsements from the typical magazines, personalities, and donors.

    Nor does National Review hold the power to define who is and isn’t a conservative. In fact, it hasn’t for some time.

  • Erudite Mavin

    Pat Buchanan is not a conservative but a Paleocon aka Libertarian
    just as your hero, the supporter of Iran and Putin, Ron Paul

  • How could a Catholic like Buckley admire same sex marriage and the direction of this magazine’s staff today ? I read National Review 40 years ago and Buckley did appear to have a Libertarian streak in him with drug legalization,but on the whole did not waver in the direction of moral degeneration. Would he support it today ? Who can tell as he is a Catholic and they have changing Popery “guidance”, witness the current Pope. This is another issue for another day, but devout traditional Bible believing Catholics have some “soul-searching” to do regarding the possible direction of their Pope AND church.

  • GAOathkeeper

    Relative to what is at stake in the coming election, whether NR is tax exempt or not is a very minor matter; a deflection from spotlighting Trump’s inconsistent and contradictory history on major political principles and issues.

    As used today, the conservative label is a brand name, not a definitive descriptive term. Like “hope-n-change”, it is used to evoke whatever the listener wants to attach to it.

    What I look for in candidates – and their supporters – is whether or not they strongly advocate a sharp return to the founding principles. The United States is no longer a Constitutional Federal Republic. It is an oligarchy where competing powerful special interests vie for control of the nation’s wealth.

    Donald Trump self-identifies as one of the powerful elite, who uses money to game the system. He brags that he is beholden to none but his own temporal views. If that isn’t the mark of a self declared dictator in waiting, the world has a very short memory.

  • Gz7


    Fake Conservatives at National Review call Donald Trump a Fake Conservative!

  • Gz7

    So which candidate will return us to our founding principles? Certainly not “conservative” republicans. They’ve had their chance. More than one to boot!

  • hadit

    Nicely portrayed.
    All of them together could never accomplish a tenth of what Trump has done just on the campaign trail. I love these critics and pundits deciding who they will bless with their anointed endorsements

  • Colorado Conservative

    Thank you Cliff for writing in detail about this, including the information on Charles Cooke.

  • john robel

    One thing IS CERTAIN. Trump is for TRUMP. I’m for Cruz.

  • Tbear

    Mychal Massie says it best:
    It is time for us abandon the Republican Party as it now exists and as it has come to be represented. It is time for us to pledge to show support for God, family, and country. The Republican Party no longer honors these three principles except when they play-act for our votes.

  • jksu2

    Big deal NPR has been partisan for decades now.

  • David

    How true!

    “National Review” is not a “Conservative” publication any longer. I am not really sure it ever was, even when Buckley was running things. Today it has become the boneyard of the old “Eastern Establishment Wing of the Republican party–people who today are referred to derisively as RINO’s (Republicans In Name Only). Which is what the entire Republican Party has become at the national level.

    When Trump entered the race I groaned. I thought it would be a side-show. Then the media got snarky in its coverage and I began to listen to what he was saying and I started to like it. Now that the Republican Establishment is starting to say “we can work with him” because they are afraid of Cruz I am becoming very wary of Trump. I have been a Carson supporter this entire cycle and still am because I believe he is the only one who can truly unite this country–he is an outsider. Trump is NOT an outsider in the same sense that Carson is. Trump has more experience running big organizations but he also has been bankrupt how many times? As President declaring Bankruptcy is really NOT an option.

    I do not know if National Review is truly a 501c3 corporation or not. What I do know is that this issue just proves that the Establishment is talking out of both sides of its mouth–since NR is a tool of that Establishment that means that they take their editorial marching orders from the RNC (ultimately). The RNC is saying “we can work with Trump” to scare us away from him and using NR to tell us WHY we should run from him.

  • David

    Charles Cooke’s views on Gay Marriage prove to me that he is no Conservative.