Controversial state Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s nonprofit “Pray in Jesus [sic] Name” has failed to file the proper paperwork with the state, a lapse that led the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on October 15th of last year to suspend its registration as a charitable organization. Since then, Klingenschmitt’s group has not been legally eligible to solicit or accept donations, which hasn’t stopped it from sending out fundraiser emails and posting videos asking for donations at a regular clip.
“God loves a cheerful giver,” Klingenschmitt says at the end of the most recent episode of his YouTube program, “Pray in Jesus Name News.” Text runs across the bottom of the screen intermittently asking viewers to make donations.
“Thank you for your monthly support,” it says.
Klingenschmitt — A former Navy chaplain who was discharged for wearing his uniform at a political event — won election this fall to represent a conservative Colorado Springs district at the Capitol in Denver. He is a Colorado figure that has joined conservative commentators across the country in making regular national headlines for outlandish and often offensive statements. He has said that “Obamacare causes cancer,” that the Bible commands people to own guns in order to “defend themselves against left wing crazies,” and that the FCC allows demonic spirits to “molest and visually rape your children.”
In August, Klingenschmitt wrote an email to supporters denouncing Colorado Congressman Jared Polis for demanding equal rights for gay Americans.
“Democrats like [openly gay] Polis want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to worship and endorse his sodomy,” Klingenschmitt wrote. “Next he’ll join ISIS in beheading Christians, but not just in Syria, right here in America.”
Klingenschmitt this past Sunday sent out an email asking supporters to pressure lawmakers to back Israel in the latest round of its decades-long battle with the Palestinian minority population of the country.
“If America doesn’t stand with Israel, God won’t stand with us,” he writes. The email includes an ask in the postscript — “Prefer to donate by mail?” — and the group’s P.O box address in Colorado Springs.
An end-of-the-year email sent on December 30 was entirely dedicated to raising money:
[blockquote] Please select here to donate your best End-Of-Year gift to Pray In Jesus Name Ministries (our 501c3 non-profit, 100% tax-deductible, used for religious education and charity to help the poor, with zero salary to Gordon since its inception in 1999). [/blockquote]
The email said gifts up to $1,200 would draw matching donations.
Pray in Jesus Name also accepts donations at its website.
It is a misdemeanor offense in Colorado for nonprofits not properly registered with the state to ask for donations.
According to tax forms on file at the Secretary of State’s office, Pray in Jesus Name — which also appears in the database under the name Persuade the World — began doing business in Colorado in 2009, raising between $20,000 and $75,000 a year. A staffer with the Secretary of State’s office said opening up shop before registering as a charity isn’t the way it is “supposed to be done” and that the group can not legally be soliciting donations. She said Pray in Jesus Name began registering with the state last May but never finished the process.
The Secretary’s office only launches investigations into non-complying nonprofits in response to formal complaints. The office posts an online complaint form that includes guidelines.
Klingenschmitt is president and, for most of the years recorded, the only employee listed for the group. He reports that he works 20 hours a week and receives no salary. His work for the group includes “religious education, inspiration, mobilization, and promoting the kingdom of Christ.” On his videos, he says a main pillar of the group’s mission is to “discern the spirits.”
On a 2013 Pray in Jesus Name 4562 tax form, Klingenschmitt lists a $2.6 million property to be deducted as a place of business. (See page 13 of the posted pdf of the form.)
Luis Toro, director of nonprofit Colorado Ethics Watch, said that, even though Colorado lawmakers are barred from soliciting donations from lobbyists while the General Assembly is in session, lawmakers who head their own nonprofits are certainly allowed to cast their nets as widely as possible for the benefit of their groups.
He added that the distinction could become fuzzy, however, if the nonprofit is also the lawmaker’s main employer, for example, or landlord.