Here’s a taste:
On April 15, 2014, we sent a letter to Rodell Mollineau, then the president of American Bridge and a former staffer of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, requesting the group’s application materials, preferably in electronic form. On April 24, a Perkins Coie attorney we’ll refer to as Ezra R. — no, E. Reese — who represents the group, responded to our request, saying in an email that, yes, the group had received an exemption from the IRS, but “as a matter of policy, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation only issues paper copies of its 1024 application.”
We asked some of the nation’s top nonprofit lawyers whether there’s any legitimate reason for a well-funded nonprofit like American Bridge to have a “policy” of printing a document from an electronic file, then mailing it to a requester — other than to make it as difficult as possible for that requester to obtain and process the document. The consensus was that American Bridge probably knew it was going to be hard for us to scan thousands of double-sided pages.
American Bridge is not the only organization with a hard-copy policy, nor is it the only one that charges for paper copies of documents we’d prefer to receive in PDF form. It’s just the only one to charge us this much money for this much paper with this much drama.
First, the money: The Perkins Coie counsel informed us that the hard copies of the documents would cost CRP $428.60, plus an estimated $20 for postage. Collecting our jaws from the floor, we politely asked if there was a decimal error in the price cited. IRS regulations permit groups to charge a “reasonable fee for any reproduction and mailing costs.” But we’ve never been hit with a fee of more than about $20….