Tuesday, September 17, 2002
|ELF spokesman Craig Rosebraugh
LOS ANGELES Critics of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are pushing for an end to the group's tax-exempt, non-profit status following revelations the organization gave money to eco-terrorists blamed for a Vail ski resort fire and other acts of violence.
Records show that PETA, known for its publicity stunts on behalf of animal rights, has given monetary support to the Environmental Liberation Front, which has been blamed for the Vail attack and other acts.
"We did it, we did it. We gave $1,500 to the ELF for a specific program," said PETA President Lisa Lange.
Lange did not say which program PETA sponsored. But from burning down buildings to blowing up SUVs, ELF is one of America's largest domestic terrorist group, the FBI says.
"They are an underground organization that consists of numerous cells throughout the United States," said FBI agent David Szany.
ELF last week admitted to torching a U.S. Forest Service laboratory in Pennsylvania in August. The blaze caused $700,000 in damage and destroyed 70 years of research.
In 1998, the group claimed responsibility for the fire at Vail, which cost $12 million in damage. ELF members said they wanted to stop expansion of the resort, which they said could further damage the habitat for the endangered lynx.
"Anyone who is making money off the destruction of the natural environment could be a target," ELF spokesman Craig Rosebraugh said last February, before testifying at a House subcommittee hearing.
PETA's sympathies for ELF actions were apparent in a recent speech by PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich. "I think it would be great if all of the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow," he said.
PETA payouts to environmental radicals include:
-- $5,000 to Josh Harper, who was convicted of assaulting police and firing on a fishing vessel;
-- $2,000 to Dave Wilson, convicted of firebombing a fur cooperative;
-- $7,500 to Fran Trutt, convicted of attempted murder of a medical executive;
-- $20,000 to Rodney Coronado, convicted of burning a research lab at Michigan State.
Now, a congressman from the Vail area and some pro-business activists want PETA to be investigated. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., is probing PETA's alleged ties to violent activism.
"There is a fine line between endorsing something in a speech and helping them financially," McInnis said. "PETA got caught this time around."
Activist Ron Arnold is asking the IRS to revoke PETA's tax-exempt status for appearing to support criminal acts. The effort could cripple PETA's $13 million funding campaign.
"The law is clear ... [a] charitable organization can't advocate acts of civil disobedience, acts that break the law," Arnold, of the Center for Defense of Free Enterprise, said.
Asked about their non-profit status and questionable payments, PETA officials call the allegations against them untrue.
But the Center for Consumer Freedom says PETA donations to the ELF, even if intended to be used for lawful purposes, still fund a terrorist organization.
"If PETA had used its tax-expemt donations from the public to make a sizable gift to Al Qaeda, Hamas or the Irish Republican Army, we would not be having a discussion about whether or not it is technically possible to make a donation to terrorists without intending the funds be used to conduct terrorism," wrote Richard Berman, executive director of the D.C.-based advocacy group, in a letter to McInnis.
Fox News' William LaJeunesse contributed to this report.