- John KoskinenCommissioner, Internal Revenue Service
Justice for Cecil! Revoke the 501(c) (4) status of Safari Club International and the 501 (c) (3) status of the Safari Club International Foundation
While people are rightly outraged by the recent slaughter of Cecil the Lion by Minnesota hunter Walter J. Palmer, they would be less surprised by his actions if they knew more about Safari Club International, of which he was a member at the time of his infamous hunt. It is a travesty SCI has any kind of non-profit status at all, since its only real mission is to protect the right of hunters to hunt any animal they want, in whatever quantity they want, anywhere in the world they want. Yet, until 2014 SCI held 501 (c) (3) status--despite the fact one of the few missions that allows an organization to claim this status is preventing cruelty to children or animals--which gave it exemption from federal income tax; rights to tax-deductible contributions; exemption from state income, sales, and employment taxes; reduced postal rates; exemption from federal unemployment tax; and tax-exempt financing. In 2014 SCI changed its status to 501 (c) (4), supposedly awarded only to organizations operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare. While SCI’s change from 501 (c) (3) to 501 (c) (4) status eliminated the ability of its donors to claim their donations for income tax purposes, it insures its donors’ identities remain anonymous, and gives SCI greater leeway to engage legally in lobbying. Here are six things the public should know about SCI:
1. Palmer is no outlier to SCI’s code of “ethics”: he exemplifies it. SCI was founded by C.J. McElroy, a trophy hunter notorious for ignoring hunting laws who once was accused of killing a Rocky Mountain bighorn ram in a national park. In July 1998, SCI president Skip Denau and former SCI president Lance Norris were part of a safari in which three elephants were killed in Mozambique, a nation that outlawed elephant hunting in 1990.
2. The "scoreboards" and "awards" that SCI uses to urge its members on in "friendly" competition are literally driving many large African mammals to extinction, and make some of its members one-person extinction squads. Just one example: to win SCI's "Crowning Achievement Award," you must kill a minimum of 322 animals.
3. SCI aggressively lobbies to have species classified as threatened rather than endangered so its hunters can continue to shoot them. It has lobbied to relax protections for the bontebok, cheetah, white rhino, mountain zebra, lechwe, African leopard, argali sheep, markhor, crocodile, hippo, African lion, cougar, lynx, wolf, and grizzly bear.
4. SCI encourages "canned hunts" at (often tiny) hunting ranches where semi-tame animals, many of them drugged, are shot at close range, and allows animals killed at such hunts to be listed in their trophy records, although many other hunting groups deplore this practice.
5. SCI is an organization of the very wealthy. In 2002, the average SCI member owned 11 rifles, 6 shotguns, five handguns, and a bow, and spent $14,000 a year on hunting. Two-thirds hunted more than 26 days a year; one-quarter, more than fifty. Over half made over $100,000 per year at a time when only six percent of hunters nationwide did.
6. SCI boasts of its "charitable" work in Africa, but this involves greasing the palms of local bureaucrats and employing local hunting guides to make sure the safaris never end.
When SCI changed its status to 501 (c) (4) in 2014, it set up a “charitable” arm, the Safari Club International Foundation, which retains the SCI’s original 501 (c) (3) non-profit status: while we can only speculate on the nature of the relationship between the SCI and the SCIF, it isn’t too hard to imagine why SCI would want a “shadow” entity with 501 (c) (3) status. As stated above, SCI is a hunters’ advocacy group, pure and simple. Only the most cynical can argue the purpose of the SCIF is “Preventing cruelty to animals” (unless this involves shooting them and mounting their heads on walls) and that the SCI is “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare” (unless bringing large African mammals like the lion, elephant, giraffe, and rhinoceros to the brink of extinction promotes social welfare). Given the arguments SCI and SCIF have used to justify their tax exempt status are bogus, their non-profit status should be revoked immediately.
- Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service
Revoke the 501(c) (4) status of Safari Club International and the 501 (c) (3) status of the Safari Club International Foundation
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