Exposed: Ohio anti-gunners' 2006 & 2007 IRS returns

"If we have more use of guns, then we're going to have more people who are injured and die."
- Toby Hoover, Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, when asked in April 2004 about her predictions about Ohio's newly-implemented concealed carry law

By Chad D. Baus

As the State of Ohio celebrates five successful years of concealed carry, with applications setting a record pace, it seems appropriate to take a look at where the most vocal of opponents of the law find themselves five years after the law was passed.

The state's predominant anti-self defense rights organization, the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence (OCAGV), operates as a tax-exempt, not-for-profit charity, or as the Internal Revenue Service refers to it, a 501(c)(3). As such, executive director Ms. Toby Hoover is required to file an IRS Form 990 each year, which becomes a public record.

I began investigating the OCAGV's tax records soon after Ohio's concealed carry law took effect, and used records from 2002 and 2003 to disprove media claims that the law had been bought and paid for thanks to an overwhelming funding advantage from pro-rights organizations like Buckeye Firearms Association. My examination of those records, as well as reports from 2004 and 2005, uncovered a vast river of money flowing into Ohio from the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, and revealed that unlike the all-volunteer team at Buckeye Firearms Association, Hoover had been paying herself higher and higher annual salaries, even as she suffered legislative loss after legislative loss.

My past investigations have uncovered evidence which supports the notion that the Joyce Foundation's primary motivation for "investing" in the OCAGV, and for looking the other way as Hoover paid a large portion of the Foundation's most recent grant to herself, was to create the perception of a "phantom majority" of Ohioans who supported gun control and opposed the restoration of self-defense rights.

It now appears that Hoover's river of money has slowed to a trickle.

The gravy train is off the tracks

The Joyce Foundation's last grant to OCAGV occurred in 2004, in the amount of $200,000, and was earmarked as a two year grant "for continued support of its efforts as a statewide resource on gun violence prevention, and to build its organizational funding and membership base". Hoover paid nearly half of that to herself, and at the end of the two years, had nothing to show for herself as far as achieving either one of the goals the Joyce Foundation set out for her.

OCAGV's organizational funding levels have decreased, and building a membership base just doesn't seem to be a priority. While the organization does report membership dues on its Form 990s, the OCAGV website doesn't even mention a way to obtain a membership (which begs the question - just where are the revenues being reported as membership dues on her tax returns coming from?).

After cashing in on close to three-quarters of one million dollars in grants from the Joyce Foundation in the first half of this decade, 2006 and 2007 tax records filed by the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence (OCAGV) indicate that the organization did not receive any new funding from its cash cow.

According to the 2007 Form 990 (the most recent year for which records are publicly available), the OCAGV ended the year with the lowest amount of assets on hand ($35,489) since the organization was formed in 2002. This is a 53% drop from the end of 2004, the year Ohio's concealed carry law took effect.

The organization has also experienced a 62% drop in gross receipts from 2004, the last year it received grant money from the Joyce Foundation.

The organization spent 86% less in 2007 on lobbying the legislature, and attempting to influence the public about a pending legislation, than it did in 2004, even though 2007 was the year Ohio's Castle Doctrine legislation began to be debated in the Ohio General Assembly.

The lack of Joyce Foundation funding is also having an effect on Hoover's own pocketbook. After having given herself annual pay increases since 2002, despite the fact that her organization had endured legislative defeat after legislative defeat, Hoover's 2007 salary was decreased 38% from a high of $45,780 in 2005.

(To the many advocates and volunteers like myself, who pour literally thousands of hours a year into fighting for pro-self-defense and pro-gun causes, the fact that Hoover has ever received a salary for her work is highly distasteful.)

That pesky "phantom majority"

Hoover's IRS forms are notable for another reason. To keep its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, IRS rules state that the OCAGV is required to maintain an average of 33% public support.

A substantial part of the foundation’s support, for purposes of (1) above, generally is a third of its total support, figured on a combined basis for the 4 tax years immediately preceding the tax year in question.

Not only has the OCAGV not achieved "a third of its total support" over four years (the 2003-2006 average was just 27.6%), the organization that claims to speak for the majority of Ohioans has never, in a given year, achieved the 33% public support threshhold. (It is striking to note that OCAGV's public support dropped from 30% to 22% in the very same year that Ohio's Concealed Handgun License law went into effect)

If pressed about these numbers, it is possible the Internal Revenue Service could determine that the OCAGV no longer qualifies as a tax-exempt charity. (Not that it ever really did - the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) Code Hoover chose to be "a good, representative" description for OCAGV is N61, the number reserved for Fishing and Hunting Clubs.)

It is clear that even the small amount of public support this anti-gun "coalition" initially achieved is waning. Contrary to the platform the Ohio media gives her, the OCAGV isn't heavily supported by, and doesn't speak for, most Ohioans.

Top heavy

While it is certainly good news that the OCAGV is suffering financially, and although support from the general public is clearly quite small, there is still reason to remain vigilant.

The one area OCAGV is seeing increases is with its Board of Directors. The organization's 2007 Form 990 listed 21 board members, most of which share in common professions similar to some of its original cast of characters - namely higher education, health care or clergy. New additions to the list include a D.C. political consultant and former Handgun Control Inc. Director of State Legislation, and a motor vehicle accident attorney (I'll save the ambulance chaser jokes) from the Cleveland area.

With a long list of well-educated, well-connected professionals now sitting on its board, and with a supportive media willing to assist them in propping up their claims to speak for millions (even though the group, as University of Toledo Professor Brian Patrick once put it, "appears to have no tangible, mass membership at all"), we can be sure the organization is hard at work searching for new sources for funding, and plotting new strategies aimed at the destruction of Second Amendment rights.

As such, Buckeye Firearms Association volunteers will continue to work, without hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding these anti-gunners are used to having, to defend and advance the right of Ohio citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities, including self-defense, hunting, competition, and recreation. Please join the fight.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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