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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
[Return to List of Headlines]
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.
[Return to List of Headlines]
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?
[Return to List of Headlines]
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
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
[Return to List of Headlines]
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, email@example.com.
Southeast: New contact/counselor for Cincinnati and
Northern Kentucky tri-state area: Carol Carder Krehbiel, (859)
[Return to List of Headlines]
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
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
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
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.
[Return to List of Headlines]
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,
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.
[Return to List of Headlines]
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
[Return to List of Headlines]
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
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%
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.).
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
- 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.
[Return to List of Headlines]
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
[Return to List of Headlines]
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
By Jay Sordean, who is active with Northern California WTR.
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