Eskimos ask IRS to look at group opposed to ANWR drilling

Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2001

ANCHORAGE -- Eskimos living in the only village inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against a group opposed to drilling for oil in the Alaska refuge.

The Native village of Kaktovik home to about 260 Inupiat Eskimos and Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. alleged that the Washington, D.C.-based Alaska Wilderness League illegally has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying efforts, including television advertising, fund-raisers and telephone campaigns to block efforts to open the 19.6 million-acre refuge to drilling.

"AWL spends nearly all of its time and expends most of its resources on both direct lobbying and grass-roots lobbying in clear violation of the requirement that AWL be operated exclusively for educational purposes," the complaint says.

The complaint filed Tuesday asks that if the IRS finds the law has been violated, Alaska Wilderness League's tax-exempt status be revoked and it pay penalties for taxes it should have paid since it was founded in 1993.

The Alaska Wilderness League said it complies fully with restrictions placed on it as a tax-exempt nonprofit charitable corporation. Arctic campaign director Adam Kolton said nonprofits are not allowed to spend more than 20 percent of revenues on lobbying efforts, and of that, only 5 percent can be spent on efforts geared toward the general public.

"We have abided by all the rules and conditions of the IRS," Kolton said. He supplied The Associated Press with a 2000 copy of IRS Form 990 showing that the group took in total revenues of a little more than $1 million and spent $81,283 on "attempts to influence public opinion."

Kolton also provided a letter from an independent auditor that said the group was fairly representing its financial activities.

Eve Ahlers, chairwoman of the Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. board, said the village benefited from drilling with monies received through the North Slope Borough for homes, better schools and a health clinic. With the decline in production at Prudhoe Bay, the money is dwindling, she said.

"We don't want to go back to the old-fashioned way with cold homes, no good clinic," Ahlers said. "We want ANWR open. They have been working against us for years. You know they have the big dollars. Someone should check into what they're doing."

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