Print

All nonprofits should disclose public documents

The debate over PACs in Laguna Beach has seen both sides accusing the other of misleading the public. There is a simple solution. All nonprofits in Laguna should post on their websites tax returns, FPCC filings, state incorporation filings, financial statements, etc. They typically have a link on their sites to donate money digitally. I don’t donate unless the site provides easy access to public filings. I simply want to know what is your legal standing, who is running it, and how is my money being spent? 

If the organization is a PAC they must file a 990 tax return or declare an exemption. These can be found at: https://forms.irs.gov/app/pod/basicSearch/search?execution=e1s2. A preliminary search for Laguna Beach PACs shows the following have filed statements: LB Firefighters Public Awareness Group, LB Police Employees PAC, LB Republicans PAC ,and Village Laguna, Inc. Village Laguna filed tax returns. Although complicated, the Village Laguna returns state they are a PAC and that most of their revenues are spent on “political activities.”

Non-political 501(c)(4)’s, such as the many “community associations” we have in Laguna, must file tax returns. The IRS site can be used to find those returns. 

FPPC form 460 must be filed by campaign committees and PACs that support candidates and ballot initiatives. These are posted on the City website at: www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/citygov/cityclerk/electioninfo/disclosurestatements.htmContributors must be disclosed along with how the money is spent. There are PACs that have donated to candidates but have not filed tax returns, maybe because the amounts are so small. 

I have a modest charitable trust I use to donate to my favorite charities. It’s managed by a reputable financial institution. When I ask them to donate to “Village Laguna, Inc” they decline since it would not be a tax-deductible charitable donation. 

The charges being exchanged between Village Laguna and Liberate Laguna could be fact-checked if all nonprofits posted all their regulatory filings on their websites. To be truly transparent, they should also post their financial statements, board members, corporate by-laws, etc. Everyone is free to donate to whatever cause they believe in. I don’t give if they are not open about who is running the organization and how my money is being spent. When invited to put my homes on the Charm House Tour, I told them I support historical preservation but won’t participate unless the money goes to philanthropic 501(c)(3) charities and not to political candidates.

Some have suggested the City should require all nonprofits domiciled in Laguna to register and disclose key documents. I would support that, but why not make it easy, be totally transparent by posting the information on their websites? That would increase the community’s confidence in these organizations and hopefully lessen the uncivilized mudslinging. 

Doug Cortez

Laguna Beach