Former Alabama judge Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, once said publicly that he did not take a “regular salary” from the small charity he founded to promote Christian values because he did not want to become a financial burden.
But privately, Moore had arranged to receive a salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law, internal charity documents show. He collected more than $1 million as president from 2007 to 2012, compensation that far surpassed what the group disclosed in its public tax filings most of those years.
When the charity couldn't afford the full amount, Moore in 2012 was given a promissory note for backpay eventually worth $540,000 or an equal stake of the charity's most valuable asset, a historic building in Montgomery, Alabama, mortgage records show. He holds that note even now, a charity official said.
A Washington Post review of public and internal charity documents found that errors and gaps in the group's federal tax filings obscured until now the compensation paid to Moore, whose defeat last month of President Donald Trump's choice for Republican nominee in the Senate race will likely embolden far-right challengers to the party's mainstream incumbents.
The charity helped Moore thrive – financially and otherwise – after his ouster from the state's Supreme Court in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse. The group has filed scores of legal briefs in cases involving conservative Christian issues, but it was in many ways built around Moore himself.
At a time when Moore was running for other public offices in Alabama, the charity kept him in the public eye and helped establish a nationwide network of donors while he took on controversial positions against same-sex marriage, Islam and the separation of church and state. Over the years, it has provided him with health care benefits, travel expenses and a bodyguard, documents show.
The Foundation for Moral Law's website routinely promoted Moore's speaking engagements and his book, “So Help Me God: The Ten Commandments, Judicial Tyranny, and the Battle for Religious Freedom.” In his last two years as president, as fundraising dwindled, Moore's compensation amounted to about a third of the contributions to the group, tax filings show.
The charity has employed at least two of Moore's children, although their compensation is not reflected in tax filings. Moore's wife, Kayla, who is now president, was paid a total of $195,000 over three years through 2015.
Moore's charitable and political activities have also overlapped in significant ways. The former longtime executive director of the charity now serves as Moore's campaign manager. The charity retained the same fundraising firm used by three of Moore's most recent campaigns for state office, public records show.
An Internal Revenue Service audit of the Foundation for Moral Law's 2013 finances, provided by the charity, concluded that it left out information about fundraising and other activities on its public tax filings and also identified discrepancies between those filings and its internal books. The IRS wrote that the issues “could jeopardize your exempt status.”
Seven charity and tax law specialists consulted by the Post said the nonprofit's activities raised questions about compliance with IRS rules, including prohibitions on the use of a charity for the private benefit or enrichment of an individual.
“The biggest issue is the benefit to Roy Moore,” said Paul Streckfus, a former tax lawyer at the IRS and editor of the EO Tax Journal, when told of the Post's findings.