Glenview nonprofit in hot water over presence of Democrats of Northfield at Pride Day picnic
Local Democrats made a big showing of themselves and their issues at a recent gay pride picnic in Glenview, and the nonprofit group hosting the picnic could be in trouble with the IRS because of it.
On June 10, volunteers from Democrats of Northfield Township helped Youth Services of Glenview/Northbrook host the “North Suburban Pride Picnic” at the group’s headquarters on West Lake Avenue. The Democrats posted photos of the event on their Facebook page, including one that showed a row of standing women wearing “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” shirts. State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), who faces a tough re-election challenge from Barrett Davie of Lake Forest, shared the photo on her Facebook site.
“Thank you for having us this afternoon to celebrate #pridemonth at the fun filled picnic!,” Morrison wrote above the photo.
Another photo showed a teenager standing in front of the gay pride rainbow flag holding a basketful of “Vote Dem” buttons.
T.J. Brown, Northfield Township Republican committeeman, told North Cook News that no Republicans were invited to the event, and nonprofit experts said that even the appearance of partisanship could get the group, organized as a 501c3, in trouble with the IRS. The group received $700,000 in government grants from 2014-2016.
“Nonprofits can endorse issues but are not permitted to endorse or oppose candidates,” Rick Cohen, chief operating officer of the National Council of Nonprofits, said. “This sounds like they are deep into the gray area right up against the line of violating the law.”
Laura Otten, executive director of the Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University, said that the group could not only be risking its nonprofit status, but its reputation and funding.
“If they had invited candidates from both parties and candidates from only one party came, there should have been a big disclaimer explaining that there was a general, open invitation to candidates from all parties and they are not responsible for the decision of others whether to attend,” Otten said.
Brown, said he was “really burned” when he saw the Facebook photos because it looks like the group is an “organ for the Democratic Party.”
“When you take government grants you have to make sure everything is done in a very non-political way,” he said. “This might cause a lot of people to revisit who they donate to.”
When asked about how the event was organized, the executive director of the youth services group said only that no invitations were sent out.
“Our Pride Picnic was an open, public event free to the community and we welcome everyone in our building,” Amy O’Leary wrote in an e-mail. “Invitations were not sent out and volunteer groups and attendees signed up through event publicity.”