How an obscure nonprofit in Washington protects tax havens for the rich

Investigations How an obscure nonprofit in Washington protects tax havens for the rich

The Center for Freedom and Prosperity in Alexandria, Va.,
Led by two U.S. citizens —

The directors of the center, eCONomist Daniel Mitchell and Andrew F. Quinlan, a tax expert for a Republican congressman  two longtime anti-tax advocates, declined to reveal the identities of their donors persuaded the Bush administration to thwart an international effort to require more transparency from tax havens. Now the center was promising to derail similar reforms in legislation before Congress.

eCONomist Daniel Mitchell  worked for Bush/Quayle transition team in 1988 and a leading tax expert at the Cato Institute, a libertarian Washington think tank.

They’re the enemy of American taxpayers and the things we try to do with our revenues — infrastructure, roads, bridges, education, defense. They help to starve us of resources that we need for all the things we do. And this center is out there helping them to accomplish that.” ~ former Senator Carl Levin

In its federal tax filings, the center said that it had briefed the prime ministers, presidents and finance ministers of more than a dozen Caribbean and Latin American nations, and traveled to the offshore havens of the Bahamas, Barbados, Singapore, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and Panama, to press its cause. In the 2007 document emailed to Mossack Fonseca, the center said it was launching an aggressive campaign on Capitol Hill to protect the secrecy of tax havens. In a 2012 document sent to the law firm, the center said it had a long relationship with then-vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan dating to his days as a congressional aide and “with the ear of Mitt Romney’s economic advisors, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity (CF&P) is primed for influence.”

“We hope you can support this effort with a donation,” the center wrote in a document sent to Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the heart of an international financial scandal known as the Panama Papers. The leak of more than 11.5 million documents, which came from inside the Panamanian law firm, has pulled back the curtain in recent months on secretive offshore tax havens and the people who use them to stash their money, including a rogues’ gallery of international criminals, money launderers and drug dealers.  The documents, which sparked an international outcry, were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and recently shared with The Washington Post.  In the eight-page fundraising document discovered by The Post, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity in Alexandria, Va., said that it had already persuaded the Bush administration to thwart an international effort to require more transparency from tax havens. Now the center was promising to derail similar reforms in legislation before Congress.  Among those it planned to contact: lawmakers, key figures in the Bush White House, the Treasury Department, the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget.

The Post offer an inside look at how a little-known nonprofit, listing its address as a post office box in Alexandria, became a persistent opponent of U.S. and global efforts to regulate the offshore world. Led by two U.S. citizens — one an economist, the other a tax expert for a Republican congressman — the center met again and again with government officials and members of the offshore industry around the world, while issuing hundreds of funding pleas and peddling its connections to Washington’s power brokers.  “It’s sort of like fishing, you have to keep casting your lure,” said Daniel Mitchell, one of the directors of the center, in a recent interview with The Post.

Quinlan and Mitchell said they are staunch advocates for libertarian ideals
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