(FOX 9) – Minnesota Gun Rights, a group that claims to be a registered nonprofit, saw its tax-exempt status revoked in 2016 and was not reinstated, an investigation revealed. of FOX 9.
The non-profit state of the group is the last question to be asked about the group's activities in Minnesota. For years, lawmakers and other pro-gun organizations have accused the organization of collecting donations while doing little for gun owners.
Ben Dorr, the group's political director, first told FOX 9 that Minnesota Gun Rights was an active non-profit organization. He explained that the questions on this subject were "false news". But later, he and his brother Chris acknowledged that they had not completed the proper forms. the Internal Revenue Service and correct the problem.
The Minnesota Attorney General's Office, Keith Ellison, released Feb. 6 investigation asking the group to register with the office or to quote an exemption.
"The attention of this office has been drawn to the fact that Minnesota Gun Rights may seek charitable contributions in Minnesota without being registered under Minnesota's charitable donations law," wrote Julie Brengman, Registrar of Public Works and Government Services. of the Attorney General.
Unique turn of the Dorr brothers
Minnesota Gun Rights is part of a network of pro-gun groups operating in 10 states. The Dorr brothers – Ben, Chris and Aaron – are linked to at least six of them.
The brothers operate with a unique twist: they criticize Republican lawmakers for being anti-gun and say other pro-gun groups like the NRA are soft.
At a demonstration on the Capitol of the State of Minnesota on February 2, during which Democrats proposed tougher gun restrictions, supporters held placards calling on Senator Scott Jensen of the GOP State "Republican in name only" and comparing the Senate Majority Leader, Paul Gazelka, to children's television. the host Fred Rogers.
The brothers solicit donations on the grounds that they are the best hope of gun owners. A page on the Minnesota Gun Rights website Saturday allowed people to join membership levels ranging from $ 50 to $ 1,000.
"If we do not fight for our Minnesota, we will lose our Minnesota," Ben Dorr said late in the two-hour rally on Saturday. "And I'm going to fight until the end, guys. Are you with me? "
Chris Dorr launched the Minnesota group in 2013 before transferring control to Ben and settling in Ohio to launch a sister organization in that state.
Revived in 2016
The Minnesota Gun Rights website indicates that the group is not-for-profit and 501 (c) (4). But the IRS revoked the group's tax-exempt status in 2016, the agency website indicates.
The group does not appear on the main list of non-profit organizations of the IRS. Guidestar, a website that allows users to view financial information from non-profit organizations, states that Minnesota Gun Rights is: not registered with the IRS.
Minnesota Gun Rights reported $ 220,000 a year, according to Promotional material about the group obtained by FOX 9. However, there is no evidence that the group ranked 990, the annual form that nonprofits use to indicate how much money they have accepted and how they spend it.
"We are depositing the 990s," Ben Dorr told FOX 9 after Saturday's rally. He found no evidence of that, he said. "Well, I think you should go see it again and everything should be published very soon."
Dorr refused to say how much money he or Chris Dorr have been paid from the group.
"You will have to discuss it with the board of directors. We are not allowed to talk about this stuff, "said Ben Dorr, while his brother was trying to interrupt the interview. "You are here and you are asking complicated questions to try to push us into a corner. I guess that's the only reason that misinformation has been aired at gun rallies.
& # 39; C & # 39; was a mistake & # 39;
Hours after the rally, Ben and Chris Dorr made a video on the Minnesota Gun Rights Facebook page to try to get ahead of this story.
"I know Big Theo, Little Theo – he thought he was very successful," Ben Dorr said in the video. "Maybe that's too much, but I have a little feeling to know what Donald Trump is feeling now."
But the brothers also acknowledged that they had not filed the federal documents. They said that they were no longer in compliance when Chris Dorr transferred the group to his brother.
"It was a mistake, we did not file it in time, we should have followed, sometimes I do not pay my bills on time and I have to pay $ 25 late fees. Ben Dorr said in the video.
The brothers said that they would show where "every penny went" in the next few weeks.
State Sen. Ron Latz, one of the leading proponents of tougher firearm restrictions, said he was questioning why the group was portraying itself as a goal-oriented organization. nonprofit while it was not registered with the IRS.
"Donors certainly do [have a right to know]Said Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. "So do all Minnesotans."
"No one in this group approached me"
Mr. Latz proposed a bill requiring background checks on all firearm sales and allowing the police to seize people's firearms if a judge made a protection order. He wondered how much pressure had been exerted by Minnesota Gun Rights from gun owners about the bills.
"No one in this group approached me and, as far as I know, they did not publish books or leaflets that I saw," he said in an interview.
Concerns about the lobbying efforts of the group have been raised for years, and many of them came from Republicans.
Sixteen state representatives – five Democrats and eleven Republicans, including then Speaker Kurt Daudt – wrote a Letter 2015 to voters and gun owners warning them that Minnesota Gun Rights was a "fake" group. The organization "relies on constant mailings, warning you of the terrible control of firearms if you do not send them money," the lawmaker wrote.
"They do not work with us and they do not work for you," they said.
Ben Dorr said donors in his group should not be worried about how he was spending their money.
"They know very well how it is used. It's used to expose anti-gun legislators across the country, "he said.
70 hours of work per week, no salary
We know more about some of the other state gun groups where the Dorr brothers have ties.
Iowa's weapons owners reported $ 298,000 and spent $ 371,000 in 2016, according to Form 990 of this group filed with the IRS. The largest expenses were spent on direct mail, advertising, management fees and postage.
In 2017, a representative of the Republican State of Iowa questioned the group's activities.
"My friends, we lied to you. Please do not be lied to anymore. It's time for his scam to end, "said state representative Matt Windschitl of the R-Missouri Valley. said at home.
Windschitl then asked fellow legislators whether Aaron Dorr had personally encouraged them to support a "Stand Your Ground" bill that pro-gun Republicans were about to adopt.
"Somebody & # 39; one?" Windschitl asked, looking around him. "Not a hand."
In Minnesota, Ben Dorr registered as a lobbyist in May 2017. He spent $ 12,407 in the first five months of 2018, according to the records online which give a limited overview of Minnesota Gun Rights expenditures.
Reported expenditures were either "postage and distribution" or "media advertising". Dorr has not identified any expenses for "preparation and distribution of lobbying materials", "telephone and communications" or salaries of support staff.