Two leading members from the Congressional Black Caucus have written the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service to demand an investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s tax exempt status, according to a letter obtained by TheWrap.
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D – Ohio), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence (D – Michigan, who is Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations and also a leader in the CBC, wrote to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in a letter dated March 7.
“For more than a year, entertainment and national media outlets have detailed the seemingly corrupt and unacceptable deal making patterns of HFPA raising questions whether the organization solely responsible for awarding the once coveted Golden Globe Award is meeting its IRS section 501(C)(3) demands,” the letter states.
It continues: “We believe at minimum, HFPA’s current leadership has colluded to benefit themselves, either directly or indirectly and therefore violated the IRS statute,” which bars the organization from operating for the benefit of private interests.
According to its tax returns, the HFPA is a 501(c)(6), which is similar to a 501(c)(3) in terms of being exempt from taxes, but is generally used for groups such as trade associations that promote the common business of its members.
The congressional letter pointed to a Wrap investigation published last month. The letter cites “…ongoing accounts of self-dealing and conflicts of interests by HFPA’s interim chief executive officer, Mr. Todd Boehly and President Ms. Helen Hoehne. The article suggests such actions are more than hearsay, instead first-hand accounts by past and present members of HFPA. One former HFPA member simply described the organization as ‘…corrupt to the core.'”
The letter also pointed out the HFPA’s “failure to embrace robust diversity and inclusion practices that we are now seeing being implemented in Hollywood and across all business and government sectors.”
The letter continued: “The apparent lack of transparency, standards, and failure to implement organizational reforms has also attracted the public ridicule of major film companies such as Amazon, Netflix and Warner Bros. In a March 2021 Variety article, which highlighted a letter sent to HFPA, a coalition of more than 100 public relations executives called on the nonprofit to eradicate the pervasive practice of unprofessionalism, ethical impropriety, and alleged financial corruption endemic to the organization.”
It added: “As members of Congress with oversight of our federal laws and statues, we believe the well documented and credible criticism of the HFPA and its current leadership is worthy of an investigation by the IRS of their 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.”
A representative for the HFPA could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Hollywood Foreign Press has been under intense scrutiny for the past year, after a Los Angeles Times investigation accused the group of self-dealing and pointed out that it had no Black members at all.
Amid widespread criticism, the HFPA pledged to adopt major reforms and the organization now insists it has gone a long way to addressing the issues raised in the aftermath of the L.A. Times exposé and the publicists’ boycott.
“The 2021 class of members is the most diverse in its history with six new Black members, 10 women, six who identify as Latinx, five Asian and four of Middle Eastern/North African descent,” the organization said in a statement — though that group of new members fell short of the HFPA’s pledge last March to add at least 13 black members, reflective of the 13% Black U.S. population.
The HFPA also noted it hired Neil Phillips as the organization’s new chief of diversity as well as engaged in outreach to journalism organizations including the National Association of Black Journalists.
Nonetheless, as TheWrap reported last month, the publicist boycott has persisted, and NBC — which canceled this year’s Golden Globes telecast — has remained silent as to whether it will bring the award ceremony back to television.
The CBC letter concluded: “It is our hope you will see the urgency of our request and instruct IRS examiners and legal teams to expose the corruption many believe exist within the HFPA,” and requested a response within 30 days.
Read the letter in its entirety below: