- A whistleblower complaint obtained by The Washington Post alleges that the Mormon Church has amassed 100 billion dollars in accounts intended for charitable purposes.
- The complaint came from a Mormon who worked for Ensign, the investment division of the Church that is allowed to operate as a nonprofit.
- According to the complaint, Ensign has not fully operated as a nonprofit and could be in violation of tax laws. It also alleges that by stockpiling the money, the Church was defrauding its members.
- The complaint cites Ensign’s President allegedly saying that the money was being put aside for the second coming of Jesus.
Allegations in Complaint
The Mormon Church has accumulated close to $100 billion in accounts intended for charity, according to a whistleblower complaint obtained by The Washington Post.
The complaint was given to the Internal Revenue Service on November 21 by David A. Nielsen, a Mormon who worked for Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment division of the Church. His twin brother Lars helped him write the complaint and assemble accompanying documents. They claim that in amassing this money, the Church defrauded its members and potentially violated federal tax law.
According to the complaint, the Mormon Church asks its members to donate 10% of their income to the Church, which is part of a common religious practice called tithing. Annually, they make $7 billion in contributions from members. It allocates $6 billion to operating costs, and the remaining one billion to Ensign.
Nonprofits are exempted from paying taxes on their income, including religious organizations like the Mormon Church. Because of this, Ensign, which is classified as a supporting organization of the Church, makes money pretty much free from U.S. taxes.
The Post said that Ensign’s portfolio started at $12 billion when it was formed in 1997. That portfolio now stands at $100 billion. Nielsen claims that despite its tax-exempt status, Ensign does not operate exclusively for religious, educational or other charitable purposes.
“Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years,” The Post’s report says. No documents specifically supported this claim, however, the complaint says this comes from information Nielsen learned while at the group. He is asking for Ensign to be stripped of its tax-exempt status, as well as alleging that they could owe billions in taxes. He is also seeking a reward from the IRS, which would be a portion of the unpaid taxes recovered.
Money Saved for Second Coming of Christ
According to the Post, the complaint cited Ensign’s President, Roger Clarke for the reasoning behind stockpiling the money. Clarke allegedly told people that, “the amassed funds would be used in the event of the second coming of Christ.“
In the complaint, Nielsen expressed frustration that the church had all this money but continued to ask its members, some of whom struggled financially, to keep donating.
“Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?” the complaint asked.
The complaint claimed that some of Ensign’s money had been used in the past, but not for charitable reasons. It alleges that $2 billion had been spent in the last decade improperly. The Post wrote that this sum was spent over the course of two instances to “bail out a church-run insurance company and a shopping mall in Salt Lake City that was a joint venture between the church and a major real estate company.”
Comments From Those Involved
David Nielson did not speak to the Post but his brother Lars did.
“Having seen tens of billions in contributions and scores more in investment returns come in, and having seen nothing except two unlawful distributions to for-profit concerns go out, [my brother] was dejected beyond words, and so was I,” he said.
The Post also reached out to the Mormon Church, however, their spokesman Eric Hawkins did not answer specific questions about the allegations at hand.
“The Church does not provide information about specific transactions or financial decisions,” he said.
When the Salt Lake Tribune reached out for comment, they were referred to a Q&A about the church’s finances, as well as an accompanying article.
“Church members are taught to ‘gradually build a financial reserve by regularly saving [a portion of their income],’ the Q&A says. “The Church applies this same principle in its own savings and investments. In addition to food and emergency supplies, the Church also sets aside funds each year for future needs.”
The Q&A also largely plays down the wealth of the Church. One question asks “Is the Church a rich church?” Their response states that “the strength of the Church cannot be measured by its financial holdings or real estate assets.”
“The only real wealth of the Church is in the faith of its people,” it continued.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Salt Lake Tribune) (Forbes)
Katie Couric Says She Edited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote About Athletes Kneeling During National Anthem
Couric said she omitted part of a 2016 interview in order to “protect” the justice.
Kate Couric Edited Quote From Justice Ginsburg
In her upcoming book, journalist Katie Couric admitted to editing a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2016 in order to “protect” Ginsberg from potential criticism.
Couric interviewed the late justice for an article in Yahoo News. During their discussion, she asked Ginsburg about her thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial inequality.
“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg is quoted saying in the piece. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
According to The Daily Mail and The New York Post, which obtained advance copies of Couric’s book “Going There,” there was more to Ginsburg’s response. Couric wrote that she omitted a portion where Ginsburg said the form of protest showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life…Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from.“
Couric Says She Lost Sleep Making Choice
“As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly,” Ginsberg reportedly continued. “And that’s why education is important.“
According to The Daily Mail, Couric wrote that the Supreme Court’s head of public affairs sent an email asking to remove comments about kneeling because Ginsburg had misspoken. Couric reportedly added that she felt a need to “protect” the justice, thinking she may not have understood the question. Couric reached out to her friend, New York Times reporter David Brooks, regarding the matter and he allegedly likewise believed she may have been confused by the subject.
Couric also wrote that she was a “big RBG fan” and felt her comments were “unworthy of a crusader for equality.” Because she knew the remarks could land Ginsburg in hot water, she said she “lost a lot of sleep” and felt “conflicted” about whether or not to edit them out.
Couric was trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday as people questioned the ethics behind her choice to ultimately cut part of the quote. Some thought the move showed a lack of journalistic integrity while others thought revealing the story now harmed Ginsburg’s legacy.
See what others are saying: (New York Post) (The Daily Mail) (Insider)
Biden Administration Orders ICE To Halt Workplace Raids
The Department of Homeland Security will now focus on targeting employers who exploit undocumented workers, instead of carrying out raids that dissuade those workers from reporting labor violations.
DHS Reverses Worksite Raid Policy
The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it was ordering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop workplace raids.
The move marks a reversal from Trump administration policies that have been strongly criticized by immigration activists who argue the efforts created fear in immigrant communities and dissuaded them from reporting labor violations or exploitative employment practices.
In addition to stopping the raids, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo that the administration will refocus enforcement efforts to instead target “employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities or impose unsafe working conditions.”
Mayorkas added that the immigration agencies housed in DHS will have the next 60 days to identify harmful existing policies and come up with new ones that provide better deportation protections for workers who report their employers.
In the Tuesday memo, the secretary argued that shift of focus will “reduce the demand for illegal employment by delivering more severe consequences to exploitative employers” and “increase the willingness of workers to report violations of law by exploitative employers and cooperate in employment and labor standards investigation.”
Labor Market Implications
The new policy comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing a critical labor shortage, including in many sectors that rely on immigrant labor.
Some companies that use undocumented workers pay them wages that are far below the market rate, which is not only exploitative but also undercuts competitors.
According to Mayorkas, the pivot to employer-based enforcement will help protect American businesses.
“By exploiting undocumented workers and paying them substandard wages, the unscrupulous employers create an unfair labor market,” he said in the memo. “They also unfairly drive down their costs and disadvantage their business competitors who abide by the law.”
It is currently unclear how effective the new efforts will be, but historical precedent does not paint an optimistic picture.
The Biden administration’s efforts closely mirror a similar move by the Obama administration, which attempted to reverse workplace raids authorized under President George W. Bush by targetting those who employ undocumented workers rather than the workers themselves.
That effort, however, still led to thousands of undocumented workers being fired.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (ABC News)
Mom Charged for Hosting Secret Teen Parties, Pressuring Kids To Drink and Engage in Sex Acts
Investigators said some of the sex acts between teens were non-consensual and at times took place while the mother stood by laughing.
Mother Hit With Dozens of Charges
A California mother is facing 39 criminal charges after hosting a series of illegal parties for her teenage son and his mostly 14- and 15-year-old friends that regularly led to dangerous accidents and sexual assaults.
The mother, 47-year-old Shannon O’Connor, also known as Shannon Bruga, is currently awaiting extradition to Santa Clara County. According to The Mercury News, she was arrested Saturday in Ada County, Idaho, where she has a home in addition to her property in Los Gatos that is currently on the market.
Her criminal charges include 12 felony counts and 10 misdemeanor counts of child endangerment, one count of misdemeanor sexual battery, three counts of misdemeanor child molestation, and 13 misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors.
“It took a lot of brave children to come forward and to untangle this deeply disturbing case,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a press release regarding the case. “As a parent, I’m shocked. As the DA, I’m determined to hold those adults who endanger children fully accountable to the law and our community.”
What Happened During the Parties?
Investigators claim O’Connor organized the functions, attended by as many as 20 teens, via text message and Snapchat. She would then allegedly supply the teens with alcohol and push them to binge drink, often to the point of illness or unconsciousness.
The harm that resulted from their intoxication included one teen breaking a finger and another almost drowning in a hot tub, among other serious situations.
In another instance, O’Connor let an unlicensed drunk teen drive her car. Her son and another one of his friends then hung off the back while it was moving, which caused the friend to fall, hit his head, and become unconscious for 30 seconds. He was later diagnosed with a concussion after spending the night vomiting.
O’Connor is additionally accused of manipulating and encouraging drunk teens to participate in sex acts with one another, which were sometimes non-consensual or carried out while she watched. In some cases, she allegedly laughed while the sexual acts happened or when assault victims asked her why she didn’t step in to help.
Investigators added that O’Connor required teens who attended her parties to keep them a secret. She’s even accused of helping them sneak out of their homes so she could drive them to her events. Authorities said she was found to have bullied at least one teen who she suspected of breaking the secret.
“Everyone should feel relieved this woman’s not on the street,” the parents of one assault victim told The Mercury News. “She was grooming these kids, setting them up for sexual acts, and she’s a mother and doing this to her own child. … I’ve been racking my brain trying to think what was in it for her.“