National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

More than a Paycheck:News from the War Tax Resistance Movement

National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

August 2005 Contents

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Editor: Ruth Benn
Layout: Ajay Advani/Susan Quinlan

More Than a Paycheck is the bimonthly publication of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, a clearinghouse and resource center for the conscientious war tax resistance movement in the United States. NWTRCC is a coalition of local, regional, and national affiliate groups working on war tax related issues.

NWTRCC Mission Statement: NWTRCC sees poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, economic exploitation, environmental destruction, and militarization of law enforcement as integrally linked with the militarism which we abhor. Through the redirection of our tax dollars, NWTRCC members contribute directly to the struggle for peace and justice for all.

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Prison Sentences for Members of
Restored Israel of Yahweh

Taken from reports by Peter Goldberger

By the end of the first sentencing hearing on June 17 for three members of Restored Israel of Yahweh, the three and their supporters were very hopeful. U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle had listened to their stories for the first time and even asked the government if they would consider "compromising" the case by zeroing out the defendants' past tax liabilities if they would agree to pay a large fine. The fine, like all criminal fines in federal court, would by law go to the Crime Victims Assistance program rather than the general fund of the Treasury, (i.e., to military spending). The three defendants had been convicted by a jury in federal court in Camden, New Jersey, in December 2004 on charges of "conspiring to defraud the United States," attempted evasion of employment taxes, and failure to file personal income tax returns (see MTAP June 2004, February 2005).

Judge Simandle delayed final sentencing until July 1, but when court was back in session, he was back to going by the book. Kevin McKee and Joe Donato, who ran McKee-Donato Construction Company, got 24 and 27 months respectively. Occasional bookkeeper Inge Donato, who has been married to Joe for 25 years, was sentenced to 6 months. They were convicted of failing to withhold and pay over the employment tax on the McKee-Donato employees who were fellow members of the Restored Israel of Yah-weh. (They did withhold and pay on nonmember employees.) While the sentences were half or less what the prosecutor had asked, this was a blow after the hopeful feelings from the first hearing. Along with the prison sentences, the judge imposed post-imprisonment terms of supervision, which expressly require them to file past and future tax returns and to pay past and future taxes. In addition, all three were fined, even though the Department of Justice Tax Division prosecutor refused to consider abating the unpaid tax amount in view of the fines imposed, as the judge had suggested in the first hearing.

Restored Israel of Yahweh is a small, unaffiliated Bible study-based religious society (it has under 50 members) in southern New Jersey. Their founder and prophet, Leo Volpe (later known as "Jeremiah") was a WW II draft refuser who left the Jehovah's Witnesses to teach a gospel of pacifism. Volpe himself was convicted of failure to file tax returns in 1978 and sentenced to serve four months' imprisonment. That little-known case is one of very few in which religiously motivated resisters have been convicted and sentenced to jail for refusing to pay taxes for war.

The defendants were not taken into custody, but must turn themselves in when the Bureau of Prisons selects the location in August. Kevin has decided to appeal, and the Donatos are considering that option. Bail pending appeal would be possible, although not likely.

In the end Judge Simandle did not treat this faith-based action as anything more than ordinary criminal conduct, albeit with a good rather than a bad motive. The prosecutors admitted at the sentencing that they could not dispute the expert affidavit of Professor Scott H. Bennett of Georgian Court University, Lakewood, New Jersey, that criminal prosecution of religious pacifist tax resisters on felony charges is almost unheard of over the last 55 years, and prison sentences are exceedingly rare.

There will be a lot to discuss at future meetings and in counselor trainings about how these gentle folks wound up being the first pacifist tax resisters to be prosecuted and jailed-possibly ever-for felony conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and attempted tax evasion, the most serious criminal charges in the Internal Revenue Code.

Peter Goldberger, Ardmore, Pennsylvania, is the attorney representing Inge Donato for sentencing and appeal. Contributions to the defense can be made to the attorney escrow account: Peter Goldberger, Attorney, IOLTA Account, c/o Peter Goldberger, 50 Ritten-house Place, Ardmore, PA 19003.

UPDATE: The first of the three reported to the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia on August 8. Please send letters of support to Inge Donato 40885-050, FDC Philadephia, PO Box 562, Philadelphia, PA 19106

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National WTR Strategy Conference - Don't Miss It!

If more people refuse to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this will tincrease the power of nonviolent resistance against the U.S. war machine. At the same time, in this political crisis period, many of our groups are treading water or even shrinking instead of growing. "Refusing to Pay for War: A National Strategy Conference" is planned for October 7-9, 2005, in Brooklyn, New York, to address these issues. All war tax resisters, allies, and potential war tax resisters are needed! Please bring your critiques and organiz-ing ideas to contribute to the discussions.

Far from being a NWTRCC meeting, this exceptional conference will be gather-ing the best minds in the movement from around the country to look at strategies and campaigns that have worked well in the past and what we can do to improve them. We will brainstorm new ideas and techniques for war tax resistance for the future campaigns. We will explore how we can link war tax resistance with the issues and strategies of other progressive constituencies to strengthen all of our movements. We will identify the road-blocks to resistance (e.g., fear of the IRS) and attempt to address them. And we will celebrate our ability to take away the government's control of how our tax money is spent.

The organizing committee is working on a program that will include looking back at successes and brainstorming for the future. The conference is seen as a first step toward developing new ideas for WTR organizing in the coming months and years. In addition, we hope to collect oral histories from some long-time WTR's, and we expect to have fun, too!

We need representation from each affiliate. Some travel funds are available for this so apply now! The conference brochure is available and being mailed to the NWTRCC list. If you have not received one by early August, please contact NWTRCC for a copy (800-269-7464) or see the website: www.nwtrcc.org/meetings.htm.

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Counseling Notes:

Burgeoning Budgets

The House approved an increase to the IRS budget at the end of June. It's up $313 billion over last year, the bulk of which is for increased enforcement activities. At the same time, wtr's should remember that the Bush administration wants the Pentagon to get an increase of $19.2 billion (not including war spending).

Excise Tax Repeal Introduced

The "Telephone Excise Tax Repeal Act of 2005" (S.1321) was introduced into the Senate on June 28. The same bill was introduced into the House (H.R. 1898) on April 27, by Congressman Gary G. Miller (CA) and about 37 co-sponsors. The Senate bill is sponsored by a group of Republicans, led by Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Earlier this year a congressional committee recommended that the tax be extended to include internet phone service and data communications, while another Senator has proposed blocking the extension to internet phone calls but maintaining the tax as is.

In May 2000, the House voted overwhelming to repeal the excise tax, but the Senate never acted on the measure. Congress people seem to recognize that this tax, started as a luxury tax to help pay for the Spanish-American war, taxes something that has become a necessity for people at all economic levels. While we might find ourselves in strange company, are any groups in the NWTRCC network considering lobbying for this bill?

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MANY THANKS

NWTRCC's May fund appeal with the partial match offered by an anonymous donor has brought in $6,672 a good return from 114 donors. Thanks to you all for your support, and to these groups for their contributions:

Mennonite Central Committee
Peace and Justice League of Spokane
WRL National
NYC People's Life Fund
Northern California WTR
Albuquerque War Tax Resistance Alternative Fund
WTR Life Fund of Lehigh Valley
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center
Friends Meeting at Cambridge
Ithaca War Tax Refusers
Austin Conscientious Objectors to Military

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Network List Updates

Great Lakes Region: David R. Bassett has moved from Ann Arbor, MI. He is now a contact for Rochester, NY, at (585) 218-0235.

Northwest and Beyond:Add Hawaii Area Contact: Irving Hollingshead, c/o Honolulu Friends Meeting, 2426 Oahu Ave., Honolulu, HI 96822, (808) 988-2714, quakers@pixi.com.

Southeast: New contact/counselor for Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky tri-state area: Carol Carder Krehbiel, (859) 454-5142.

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Legislative News

Peace Tax Testimonies Before New York City Council

By Tim Godshall

Over 75 people braved the blazing sun and sweltering concrete on June 9, 2005, to call for a Peace Tax Fund. The gathering, on the steps of New York City Hall, marked the beginning of an historic afternoon in which the New York City Council heard testimony on Resolution 367, supporting the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill. Resolution 367 is the first city council resolution of its kind.

The diverse group of Peace Tax Fund supporters stood together in front of City Hall displaying colorful banners and signs during a press conference before the hearing. Council Member Bill Perkins, the lead sponsor of the resolution, moderated the press conference at which speakers representing Muslim and Christian organizations spoke, as well as Leslie Cagan of United For Peace and Justice.

The hearing took place before the State and Federal Legislation Committee, chaired by Joel Rivera. Twenty-one people gave testimonies and the written statements are included in the official record of the hearing. Marian Franz, Executive Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, gave an introductory explanation of the Peace Tax Fund Bill and read from a letter to the IRS by a conscientious objector stating why he cannot, in good conscience, pay his taxes.

Several speakers focused on the level and costs of U.S. militarism. Frida Berrigan, of the World Policy Institute, noted in her testimony that the U.S. spends as much money on its military as the next 32 countries combined.

The speakers represented a wide variety of affiliations and political perspectives. Forrest Montgomery, formerly on the staff of National Association of Evangelicals, said he is not a pacifist, but he went on to explain that he strongly supports the Peace Tax Fund Bill because of his belief in religious freedom. Reverend Michael Banks, of the New York City Mennonite Council, talked about the energy and enthusiasm this move-ment to pay taxes for peace, not war, has brought to the people of his church. Colleen Kelly, co-director of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, talked personally about the death of her brother in the World Trade Center attacks and her desire to bring the perpetrators of that crime to justice. The U.S. response to those attacks has just cre-ated more violence She likened paying for the U.S. military to paying for a vacuum cleaner that doesn't work. We wouldn't put up with the latter, so why do we put up with the former?

Several war tax resisters explained to the panel of council members why they don't pay taxes for military purposes, including Rosa Packard of Conscience and Peace Tax International. Ruth Benn, of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Commit-tee, spoke on behalf of the larger movement not to pay for war. (A full list of those who testified and some transcripts are posted on our website, www.peacetaxfund.org, and see below.)

The hearing is a milestone, but the resolution still needs to be voted out of the committee before the whole City Council will decide on it. Currently, nine members of the 51-member City Council are cosponsors -Perkins, Charles Barron, Gale A. Brewer, Helen D. Foster, Robert Jackson, Letitia James, Margarita Lopez, Miguel Martinez, and Hiram Monserrate. On the national level, the bill is back in Congress as H.R. 2631. It was introduced on May 25 by Representative John Lewis (D-GA) with 34 other original co-sponsors, including Jim McDermott (D-WA), who has never before sponsored the Peace Tax Fund, and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) who regained her seat in the 2004 election.

Tim Godshall is Outreach/Development Director for the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund based in Washington, DC.

In Their Own Words
From the NYC Hearing on the Peace Tax Fund

Marian C. Franz Executive Dir., National Campaign for Peace Tax Fund

According to UNICEF 30,000 die daily from malnutrition or from diseases that have an inexpensive cure. We have named some of our weapons the names of gods: Titan and Poseidon, the "devil gods." The question presents itself: Are we sacrificing the children to the gods? The weapons have no sensitivity to their victims. Conscience does. Another question: what if we used the billions to house, clothe, educate and heal. We insist: there more than one way to defend a country.

Reverend Michael Banks New York City Council of Mennonite Churches and King of Glory Tabernacle

What's happening in the Bronx? Young people, multiethnic groups are gathering because they believe in peace. What does this bill do? It gives them hope. I am here to represent the future. What does that mean for us? This bill then allows young people to have hope in a democratic process which they now can see accommodates their religious con-science. This is exciting news. I want to conclude with this idea. Biblical peacemaking or peace is not just a Biblical concept, but rather gentleman and lady. It is a necessity of evolution. This will open the door for our humanity to grow through the process of our democracy.

Colleen Kelly Co-director, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

In my assessment, after three and a half years, the militaristic response to 9/11 has been largely ineffectual. We still don't have bin Ladin or Zukowi or others, and incidents of terror around the world in fact have markedly increased. The doctrine of preemptive war has left Pandora's once morally locked box, and the greatest cost of all, more than 1,650 U.S. serv ice people killed, and over 100,000 civilians dead. I stand in good and informed conscience and say my money is not being well spent.

Neena Das Organizer, NYC Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund Bill

Part of what delights me about the Peace Tax Fund for the long term is the possibility of a pacifist option in the IRS form. It's a necessary tool for a democracy so overwhelmingly invested in the military. What has me motivated so far is that in the process of asking for support for the peace tax, we have been able to help educate people, including local politicians, about the level of military spending-it's really unbelievable, especially com-pared to nations like UK or Canada. Most people are just not aware of how much we spend on warfare. I hope the NYC Council hearing is the beginning of a popular move-ment to focus much needed moral attention to this egregious failure of democracy.

G. Simon Harak Anti-Militarism Coordinator, War Resisters League

Where and how we allocate our money shows in concrete terms where our values are, shows right there on the tally sheet where we wish to spend -or squander-our time, our talents, our treasure… There are so many of us who want a Peace Tax Fund, who wish to spend our tax money not on Halliburton but on housing, not on mass killing but on mass transit, not on bombing hospitals but on building them.

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NWTRCC Business

Final Note of Peace Tax Return

In the last issue we said we'd have more details in this issue about the return on the Peace Tax Return. As it turns out, there may not be too much to add. Here are the basics:
Printed: 5550 (Most were distributed by local groups)
Downloaded from web: No stats
Use reported to NWTRCC: 131
Number of those refusing $1 - $8,845.50: 40
Total resisted: $33,889.65
States represented: 27

Half of the returns came from California, New York, Oregon, and Washington

Some reported the groups that benefited from their redirection: Protect An Acre project of the Rainforest Action Network; Survival International; Christian Peacemaker Teams (Iraq Team); National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund; NWTRCC; Mennonite Central Committee; and Doctors Without Boarders (Sudan work).

We also reported in the last issue that the IRS was sending us back packets of the returns. One phone call to the number on a cover sheet that came with the returns answered the question. The IRS's mail processing center did not know to which office we wanted them delivered. The worker there looked us up on the web and thought the forms should go to NWTRCC. He was happy to hear that the destination was to be the Commissioner's office, and so far we've received no more returns from the IRS. The ones that came here were sent to the Commissioner with a letter explaining the mix-up.

The May Coordinating Committee meeting did decide we should produce the form for the coming tax season, so we'll be working on that this fall and hope to have it ready in December.

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Resources

Grant Cycle Underway

The Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia (NACC) seeks grant applications from activist organizations performing great and necessary work, who are in dire need of fund-ing because they are "too radical" to receive mainstream funding. Grant applications are available through the office, or online at http://seanacc.org/grants.htm. The application deadline is September 15, 2005; and grants will be awarded on November 1, 2005. The funding limit is $2,000. NACC grants are made possible through interest received from NACC's CMTC Escrow account, the nation's largest fund of resisted war taxes. Grants are bolstered from general fundraising.

For more information, see the website or contact: NACC, 4554-12th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105, (206) 547-0952, Email: nacc (at) drizzle.com.

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War Tax Resistance Ideas & Actions

Penny Polling Around the Country

(There are more reports and pictures on the web at: www.nwtrcc.org/TaxDay05.htm.)

On tax day-and occasionally at other times of year, groups set up Penny Polls. This simple activity is one way to have more interaction. It challenges people to think about both how their tax dollars are being spent and how they would like them spent. The results can also be used in press releases to local media.

While some readers have years of experience penny polling, the NWTRCC office does receive letters asking, "How do you do a Penny Poll?" Photos and descriptions from groups around the country indicate that there as many styles of polls as there are groups doing them. Some set up tables outside the IRS, post office, or at a busy outdoor plaza, while others seek an indoor site on college campuses or in libraries - especially if the weather is uncooperative for outdoor tabling.

Although called a "penny poll," some groups use beans instead of coins. To collect the coins or beans receptacles might be cups or cut down plastic bottles; some use an assortment of jars; some use matching jars. Then other groups have a member with de-sign and carpentry skills who builds a frame for plastic tubes that's used year after year. A few years ago National Priorities Project sponsored "penny polling" using a paper bal-lot system rather than jars and pennies. Categories were listed and people were asked to assign an amount to each, totalling $1 for one tax dollar.

The categories for the labels or ballots can be taken from the War Resisters League pie chart; others like to add more specific spending options and make an even split with 10 categories and 10 pennies representing one tax dollar. Local issues might inspire the choice of a particular category: mass transit in a big city or environmental land-use issues in a rural area. The photos and descriptions presented here from groups who did Penny Polls April 15, 2005, may give you more ideas on how to construct your very own Penny Poll.

Greensboro, North Carolina

Two wtr's new to the area set up their poll at the "wrong" post office. Another one was where all the Tax Day hubbub goes on. Nevertheless, more than 54 people in the largely Hispanic and African American community participated. Despite being in "the most military-friendly state" (as per area billboards), the results were similar to those in known progressive communities:
General Government - 10%
Military - 14%
Physical Resources - 16%
Interest on the National Debt - 18% (people were encouraged to put two pennies here)
Human Resources - 41%
-Daniel Woodham

Corvallis, Oregon

A "penny poll" was taken on the sidewalk in front of the Corv allis Post Office between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. by people loosely affiliated with the Corv allis-area group, Alternatives to War. Visitors to the post office and passers-by were asked to take part. Each participant was given 10 pennies with which to indicate how s/he wished the federal government would distribute the income taxes it receives. 240 people participated. The results:
Human resources - 41.7%
General government - 12.6%
Current military expenses - 8.3%
Past military - 13.3 %
Physical resources - 24%

Even though many people were eager to express their opinion, it was clear that some passers-by were cynical about government and its responsiveness to public concerns (whether expressed in polls like this, or in other ways). For example, we several times heard the comment that it was too depressing to think about the budget because it was all about war; and the gist of another comment that was heard several times was: "It doesn't matter what I think, the government will do what it wants."

Also, the results and conversations indicated that participants were concerned that veterans' benefits be paid, but by contrast they had much less interest in investing public money into current wars. What people seemed to care most about was maintenance of physical (including biologi-cal) resources and human resources (education, health care, etc.).
-Roberta Hall

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Members of New Hampshire War Tax Resistance conducted an informal poll in front of the Portsmouth post office on tax day. Participants were given 20 pennies to drop in any of ten glass jars, each representing a part of the Federal budget. After 8 hours the results were as follows:
Education - 24%
Environment - 18%
Alternative Energy - 16%
Health care - 12%
Social Services - 9%
Veterans Benefits - 5%
Agriculture - 5%
Science & Technology - 4%
Military - 4%
Homeland Security - 3%

A full story about the day's activities in Portsmouth is on the web at: http://nhindymedia.org/newswire/display/2279/index.php.

Ithaca, New York

Audrey Stewart and son Gabe person the table in front of the post office. People were given ten pennies to distribute in the way they would like to see their tax dollars spent. 58 people participated in the poll that lasted from 12-2 p.m. (in addition to passing out literature). The results:
1) Health Care - 22.8%
2) Education - 16.9%
3) Environment - 12.3%
4) Mass Transit - 9.8%
5) Income Assistance - 9.5%
6) Arts - 9.0%
7) Housing - 9.0%
8) Foreign Aid (nonmilitary ) - 5.5%
9) National Debt - 2.8%
10) Military - 2.4%

People Want Cuts in Military Spending

The Program on International Policy Attitudes associated with the University of Maryland conducted a national poll of 1,182 Americans in February, "The Federal Budget: The Public's Priorities." Questioned about military spending, the survey showed that on average Americans want to reduce military spending by 31% (nearly $134 billion). This very interesting study can be read in full by going to www.pipa.org.

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Local Group Reports

New England WTR Gathering

The annual New England Gathering of War Tax Resisters and Supporters will be held on September 9-11, 2005, at Pioneer Valley Cohousing in Amherst, MA. Whether you are interested in exploring war tax resistance for the first time or already refusing to pay some or all of your federal income and phone taxes, this weekend is for you. This year's theme is: "Beyond NO! Gandhi's Constructive Campaign and War Tax Resistance."

The cost for the weekend is $45, which includes meals and basic housing or camping.

For a brochure, registration information, or further details, contact Kip Moeller, 309 W. Hawley Rd., Charlemont, MA 01339, 413-339-8778 or email: kipmoe@gmail.com.

Philadelphia Follow-Up

Marlene Santoyo headed into court for a follow-up date after her arrest for handing out flyers on Tax Day in downtown Philadelphia during the WRL Philadelphia sponsored action (see MTAP, June 2005). Eight supporters from various peace communities joined her to hear the judge dismiss the charges for "Refuse and Littering" as written on her citation, bringing back memories of Arlo Guthrie's adventures with littering as told in his song "Alice's Restaurant." After the appearance, her lawyer said, "Marlene, Don't stop doing this!", i.e., challenging the U.S. government when our Constitutional rights are being eroded.

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Book Reviews: WTRs Recommended...

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

By John Perkins (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2004)

Many politically and economically astute individuals believe that the World Bank, Inter-national Monetary Fund, USAID, and other banking organizations have purposefully bankrupted many developing countries. While that may be true, the underlying intentions to bankrupt may have come more directly from private interests. At least that is the "con-fession" of John Perkins in his autobiographical account about working for private international development consulting firms. Almost apologetically this book spans his life from high school, college, Peace Corps experiences, working as an economic hit man (EHM), and finally outing himself 20 years after ending this lucrative life.

Perkins describes in engaging and easy-to-follow language how he and others worked to make big money for American development companies in places such as In-donesia, Iraq, Iran, and Panama, while deliberately over-inflating economic growth projections so those same countries would not be able to make good on their debts, thus enslaving them. He says the inevitable backlash from these machinations built up over the years, resulting in the events of September 11, 2001; this also helps to clarify what is going on now in Iraq. He projects further consequences in the future of the intentional im-poverishment of developing countries by U.S. companies such as Bechtel, Halliburton, and Brown & Root. He writes that, because Saddam Hussein would not play by the rules of the "corporatocracy," he was slated for elimination just as other world leaders have been. If we are to believe Perkins' story, the economically wicked motives for the Iraq invasion become even more transparent.

I consider this a must-read book for the serious WTR and student of international affairs; buy one, read it, and then pass it around to friends. It is especially relevant during this time of heightened deception and lying at the highest levels of government and cor-porations.

By Jay Sordean, who is active with Northern California WTR.

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National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee
PO Box 150553, Brooklyn, NY 11215 • Email: nwtrcc@nwtrcc.org
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