An organisation set up by the shadow defence secretary Liam Fox and linked to a string of other Conservative front benchers is under investigation by US tax authorities, Scrapbook can reveal. Atlantic Bridge, whose political activities have been subject to an official probe in the UK since October 2009, has been referred to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by the Charity Commission. The investigation comes as an embarrassment to members of its advisory council, which include George Osborne, Michael Gove, William Hague and Chris Grayling.
The sham charity was set up with the ‘simple aim of “Strengthening the Special Relationship” exemplified by the Reagan-Thatcher partnership of the 1980s’ despite regulation clearly prohibiting party political activity. Hosting a book launch for William Hague and providing a $2,500 hotel room for a visiting US senator number amongst controversial activities which have drawn the attention of regulators on both sides of the pond.
The ruse used by Atlantic Bridge to fend off the authorities is to configure itself as two separate charities: one in the US and one in the UK, which was previously registered at Portcullis House. Problems in the UK are referred to the US jurisdiction and vice-versa despite accounts indicating that “the two entities have been set up to mutually support each others aims”. The organisations are referred to by executives as a single entity and have executive and advisory councils and an honorary patron (Margaret Thatcher) in common.
It seems a recent press release and an article by the Atlantic Bridge CEO backing David Cameron was the last straw for the Charity Commission. Correspondence between blogger Stephen Newton and the UK regulator seen by Scrapbook indicates Atlantic Bridge is now under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service:
As you will appreciate the Atlantic Bridge Inc is registered in the United States as a 501(c)(3) organisation with the IRS and therefore does not fall within the Commission’s jurisdiction. We have therefore notified the IRS of this information* – Charity Commission
As a 501(c)(3) organisation, the US-arm, Atlantic Bridge Inc, is “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office”. One can only look askance at the following statement:
“Americans should look forward to May 6, after which Cameron and his government will likely assume power. He will be good for America and better for the Special Relationship.” – Atlantic Bridge CEO Amanda Bowman
For Conservative shadow cabinet ministers, sitting on the management structures of an organisation responsible for rubbishing the NHS in US healthcare debates is reckless enough. It is apparently the case, however, that this body is also responsible for flying senior Conservatives and their US friends across the Atlantic at the expense of the British Treasury and UK taxpayers. As Newton (whose excellent articles on Atlantic Bridge are available available on his blog) writes:
As a higher rate taxpayer, a £1,000 trip to see comedian James Hirsen in LA, for example, would be covered by a £600 donation. The remaining £400 would then be claimed from British taxpayers. It sounds like an invitation to take part in well planned, systematic corruption.
The taxes this organisation has avoided paying could have been used to fund schools and hospitals. Perhaps hacks following Messrs Fox, Osborne, Hague and Grayling on the campaign trail should pose the following question:
How much tax has your organisation dodged?
*IRS analysts are currently acting on this communication and a complaint from Stephen Newton.
UPDATE 18:15 So, as Guido observes, the press release is a bit suspect. But the article is genuine and Bowman is clearly a shill for David Cameron during an election.