United Church of Christ Lawyers Up for IRS Investigation

The United Church of Christ, which is familiar to broadcasters through its Office of Communications activities related to media ownership and children's TV, retained law firm WilmerHale to represent it in an Internal Revenue Service investigation into its tax-exempt status.

The investigation was prompted by a speech by Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), a member of the church, at its annual gathering in June. That speech got the IRS to wondering whether it constituted political campaign activity on the part of the church that could threaten its tax-exempt status.

Heading the legal team is former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, whom the church pointed out has a stellar record in high-profile cases -- a 9-0 record in arguments before the Supreme Court, for example.

"I am confident that when the IRS learns all of the relevant facts, it will conclude that the General Synod of the United Church of Christ did not come close to conducting political campaign activity at its 2007 gathering," Waxman said in a statement Tuesday. "The IRS must proceed with great care and sensitivity to the First Amendment when it initiates an investigation in reaction to a speech at a religious event.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.