Organization Trends

Did CAIR Violate Its Tax-Exempt Status by Endorsing an Anti-Trump Protest?

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) appears to have violated its tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization by sponsoring a “Protest Donald Trump” rally at the annual Minnesota Republican Party Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, where the former president current candidate will be speaking.

The social media advertisement for the event explicitly and solely refers to the demonstration as one against Trump. The X (Twitter) post by CAIR-MN states, “Join us to say NO to Trump and his whole reactionary agenda!” (The post is currently unavailable on X but is still in the source code of a post on CAIR-MN Instagram account, archived here.)

Credit: CAIR-MN account on X.

CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood

CAIR was created as part of a Muslim Brotherhood campaign in the U.S. to support Hamas in 1994 after a decision, which was covertly recorded by the FBI, was made to form a group with a more moderate veneer.

CAIR stunningly dropped its mask when Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national executive director, publicly endorsed the Hamas-led terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023, prompting a condemnation from the Biden White House. CAIR then made a laughably illogical and deceptive claim that its leader’s videotaped remarks were taken out of context.

“Absolutely Prohibited”

According to the IRS website:

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) 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. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

How CAIR can claim that “say[ing] NO to” a political candidate is not “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office” is not immediately clear.

Radical Allies

The rally is also sponsored by the Minnesota Immigration Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) and the Minnesota Abortion Action Committee, both of which support the anti-Israel protests on campuses. These two groups have unclear status and may be able to intervene in political elections, unlike CAIR-MN.

The MIRAC pivoted to the Israel-Hamas War with a pro-Palestinian statement on October 31 that also displayed its broader anti-Western ideology by saying: “MIRAC stands in solidarity with all oppressed people and recognizes that the roots of forced mass migration lie in the economic system, economic policies and in imperialist wars.” By using the “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free!” slogan, MIRAC indicates its support for eliminating Israel from the map.

CAIR-MN may try to point to some of the text in the second advertisement to argue that rally’s scope is limited to issues, and that CAIR is therefore not illegally intervening in a political campaign in violation of its tax-exempt status. Yet the text under the “PROTEST TRUMP!” heading says:



Credit: CAIR-MN account on X.

However, that potential defense cannot erase the fact that the graphic says, “No Trump” and “Protest Trump” and that the first advertisement doesn’t have any arguably issue-specific focus at all.

Dr. Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, told the Capital Research Center that CAIR’s behavior is reflective of a broader ideology that is hostile to the United States:

Typical of its disdain for U.S. law (and the United States more generally), CAIR ignores limitations on its activities to engage in politics. Will the Biden administration take it to court? I am not holding my breath.”

Yasmine Mohammed, co-director of the Clarity Coalition, an anti-Islamist organization, observed:

CAIR has repeatedly violated moral and ethical principles by doing things like supporting a terrorist group that kidnaps and kills Americans, and now they are openly violating IRS regulations by campaigning in opposition to a candidate for elective public office. Consistently ignoring the blatant corruption in groups like this empowers them further.

CAIR California  

CAIR’s California wing also appeared to violate the IRS rules in a similar fashion earlier this year. In January, CAIR’s executive director of its Sacramento Valley and Central California chapter, Basim Elkarra, said, Our community mobilized to put Biden in power after Donald Trump.… It hurts. It hurts deeply.” CAIR-National then published a post that emphasized that quote and provided a link to the article.

As I wrote at the time:

CAIR would never contest the fact that it is one of the most influential—if not the most influential—organizations in the Muslim American community. The CAIR chapter leader’s statement that he and the community feel personally hurt because of their contributions to the Biden campaign’s victory against Trump seems to clearly violate the laws that regulate its nonprofit status.

CAIR also apparently violated the IRS rules regarding political intervention in September 2015 when it took an official position that Dr. Ben Carson, then a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, should end his campaign after he said he would “absolutely not” support a Muslim for president because Islam is inconsistent with the Constitution.

“We ask Mr. Ben Carson to withdraw from the presidential race because he is unfit to lead because his views are in contradiction with the U.S. Constitution,” it said.

Carson later altered his position and said he could support a Muslim for president if he person “clearly swear[s] to place our Constitution above their religion” and “renounced the central tenet of Islam: Sharia Law.”

Broader Implications

CAIR’s apparently violations of the nonprofit regulations show how confident the organization and its fellow travelers are. CAIR’s leaders seem to know they are violating the regulations. They know organizations like ours will see their actions and will report on them. Yet they aren’t bothered and who can blame them after all they have gotten away with in terms of both legal and societal consequences?

After CAIR’s national leader praised the October 7 attacks, I contacted the top 20 foundations financing CAIR to inform them of his statement and to ask them whether they would continue financing or facilitating donations to the group. None of them agreed to cut off CAIR, and only one even bothered to respond, which the San Francisco Foundation did with the ridiculously evasive response that it “works with donors to support approximately 3,000 nonprofit organizations each year.”

The lack of consequences for CAIR could encourage other pro-Hamas and extremist groups to break the laws and rules restricting charitable organizations’ involvement in elections. The last thing the country needs is anything that will increase extremist groups’ sway over politicians and candidates.

Ryan Mauro

Ryan Mauro is an investigative researcher for Capital Research Center. He is also an adjunct professor at Regent University and the former Director of Intelligence…
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