In the second release of secretly recorded conversations with fundraisers from National Public Radio (NPR), conservative activist James O'Keefe and his colleagues press NPR Senior Director of Institutional Giving Betsey Liley about whether donations from their fake so-called "Muslim Brotherhood front group" could be kept anonymous and under the radar of the federal government.
During the 44-minute recording, Liley speaks with "Ibrahim Kasaam," of the fictional Muslim Education Action Center (MEAC) Trust in a phone conversation dated Feb. 28. The two talk at length about the donation process and "Kasaam" asks whether NPR could effectively hide the group's $5 million donation from the government. Liley, who was placed on administrative leave earlier this week following Part I of O'Keefe's investigation, responded somewhat affirmatively, adding that she would have to check with NPR's legal team.
In a statement released Thursday evening, NPR acknowledged Liley's "mistakes," calling her assertion "factually inaccurate." The publicly funded organization also insisted all donations -- whether anonymous or not -- are reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). NPR also reiterated that in the end, they did not accept the fake Muslim group's charitable offer.
Additionally, NPR has released several select internal emails to try and back up their claims.
In the early afternoon hours of March 3, (now former) NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller sent an internal email message regarding "Kasaam" to several colleagues (including Liley), noting that he "repeated again that they want to deliver the check. I said that's very generous but we really need to sort out these issues first," referring to necessary confirmation of the group's 501(c)3 charitable status. Additionally, Schiller says she notified "Kasaam" that NPR would have to report the group's donation and the charity's name to the IRS.
Schiller adds: "We should have a discussion about this gift this (sic) offline..."
Later that same day, an email sent to Ms. Schiller from "Kasaam" insists the false group will provide all necessary tax forms NPR requests to complete the transaction, but insists they will not release a complete list of their contributors.
In a March 4 email, Joyce Slocum, NPR General Counsel and SVP, responded directly to "Kasaam," thanking him for MEAC's monetary donation, but once again reiterating NPR's "need to verify certain information with respect to any organization that proposes to make a significant gift to NPR."
Slocum explains that NPR needs to verify that "Kasaam"'s 501(c)3 is in compliance with necessary IRS regulations in order to protect NPR from being caught up in any later compliance activity.
"In most instances, we're able to verify this information without troubling the donor organization by using publicly accessible information," she explains. "Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate the necessary information about the Muslim Education Action Center, and so we need to ask that you provide it."
Slocum's correspondence suggests NPR was in fact following through with necessary legal precautions before pressing forward with any monetary exchange -- a fact contrary to O'Keefe's assertions that NPR was not only going to accept the gift, but would also hide it from the government.
It is hard to gauge what kind of red flags may have been raised by the fictional MEAC organization or how NPR may have responded, however, as NPR did not release more of their correspondence. In addition, none of the released emails seem to directly address Liley's earlier suggestion that NPR may be able to shield MEAC's donation from government auditors.
NPR's claims that these few emails demonstrate "repeated refusal" of MEAC's charitable gift do not seem to be supported, anymore than O'Keefe's videos suggest the organization's willingness to blindly accept the gift. Instead, the emails show NPR taking necessary precautions to effectively vet MEAC as a potential donor.