A supposedly “independent” charity with close links to a string of right-wing campaigning organisations gave 100% of its funding to the TaxPayers’ Alliance, accounts filed with regulators reveal. The Politics and Economics Research Trust (PERT), purportedly founded to “advance the education of the public”, gave 18 grants worth £325,000 to the pressure group.
Despite strict controls on political campaigning conducted by charities, PERT gives the near entirety of its funding to a small clique of campaign groups in the libertarian hinterland of the Conservative Party and UKIP.
“To be a charity an organisation must be established for charitable purposes only, which are for the public benefit. An organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are political.”
But the TaxPayers’ alliance freely admit they are a politically partisan organisation. This slide from a presentation given by TPA chief Matthew Elliott characterises the organisation as part of Britain’s “conservative movement”.
The new accounts are likely to reignite controversy over whether the charity is being used to launder money into TPA coffers by leveraging preferential tax arrangements. As a registered charity, PERT would likely be eligible for thousands of pounds in Gift Aid subsidies on donations it receives from individuals.
An investigation by the Charity Commission conducted in the wake of a Guardian exposé found “no evidence” that the charity had channelled donations enhanced with Gift Aid to the TPA. But a carefully-worded statement from the campaigners did not deny that their charity had received money under the scheme.
The grim fate of Liam Fox’ Atlantic Bridge operation should provide PERT trustees pause for thought.