Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, has sent letters to six media-based ministries asking for information about their expenses, executive compensation and the amenities lavished on their executives to see if they are violating their tax-exempt status.
Grassley said he was following up on complaints from the public, as well as news accounts, that the ministries' governing boards weren't independent, and were handing out generous salaries and housing allowances to their executives, as well as extravagant amenities including private jets and Rolls-Royce cars.
"I don't want to conclude that there's a problem, but I have an obligation to donors and the taxpayers to find out more," said Grassley in a statement. "People who donated should have their money spent as intended and in adherence with the Tax Code."
Among those on the receiving end of Grassley's letters were Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Fla.
To the Whites, Grassley wrote, "It has been reported to the Finance Committee that WWIC, PWM or Randy and Paula White recently bought Mr. T.D. Jakes a Bentley convertible as a gift. If this is true, please provide a copy of the bill of sale and the type of payment instrument (check, cashier's check, loan document) used to purchase the vehicle. Explain the tax-exempt purpose of the gift if purchased by WWIC, PWM or any related tax-exempt entity."
He also inquired about a $170,000 loan that one of the church members had extended to the Whites, which wasn't repaid until after a news account appeared.
Also receiving letters from Grassley were Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas; David and Joyce Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo.; Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas; Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga.; and Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga.
For Joyce Meyer Ministries, Grassley asked about some of the expensive furnishings of its headquarters, including a $23,000 marble-topped commode and a $19,162 pair of Dresden vases.
For Bishop Eddie Long Ministries and the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Grassley noted, "In 2005, a church spokesman stated that Mr. Long no longer receives a salary from NBMBC and instead receives a 'love offering.' Provide the date and amount of the last salary payment to Mr. Long. From that date forward, provide the total amount of 'love offerings' received by Mr. Long each year to the present."
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