By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
The Foundation for Moral Law — a right-leaning legal advocacy group founded by US Senate candidate Roy Moore and headed by his wife, Kayla Moore — threatened legal action against the Washington Post on Wednesday night in response to a series of articles highlighting Moore’s relationship with the nonprofit organization.
Trenton Garmon, a Gadsden, Alabama, attorney representing the Foundation requested the Post cease and desist “from making false statements about the Foundation and its founder,” the Foundation said in a statement.
“Garmon further advised the Post that if they do not promptly comply with the Foundation’s demands, legal action will be forthcoming,” the Foundation said.
The Post’s investigative unit published a series of pieces in October including one that reported Moore took a $180,000-per-year salary from the Foundation even after saying publicly that he did not take a “regular salary.
From 2007 to 2012, Moore collected $1 million in compensation as president, far exceeding the total disclosed in the group’s public tax filings, according to the Post’s report. Part of the payments was given in the form of a promissory note for back pay worth $540,000 or an equal stake in the group’s historic headquarters in downtown Montgomery.
The Post has not issued any corrections to the story, signaling that the newspaper stands by its reporting. The newspaper responded to the Foundation’s criticism and criticism from Moore’s campaign, saying it supported its reporters’ work.
Moore’s campaign chairman Bill Armistead has called the reports “hit pieces” and accused the paper and its reporters of being biased against Moore, who is facing Democrat and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones in the December special election.
“Judge Moore is an honorable man who has served the public according to the highest of ethical standards and in accordance with the law,” Armistead said in October. “The Washington Post should retract its story immediately and fire the reporters who cooked up this latest batch of fake news.”
Another report from the Washington Post said Moore did not report to the Internal Revenue Service that the Foundation guaranteed him $498,000 in back pay in 2011. The promissory note would have generated a $100,000 tax bill, according to five tax experts and accountants interviewed by the Post. The note could have been cashed in on demand.
The promissory notes were later updated to the $540,000 amount in 2012.
Of a total pay of $1,050,000 from 2007 to 2012, the Foundation only disclosed $977,892 of it, according to the public tax filings and internal documents reviewed by The Post.
Moore’s campaign has said he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on the promissory note until he cashed it in, which his campaign said he has yet to do, citing their own tax experts.
“The Washington Post recently published a number of hit pieces on Judge Moore and how he was compensated by the Foundation for Moral Law for work performed on their behalf,” Armistead said in October. “The stories have contained misrepresentations and inconsistencies designed, not to tell the truth, but to hurt Judge Moore politically.”
Armistead pointed to the two different numbers in the separate reports as contradictions, though the Post was referring to the 2011 total of $498,00 in the second report and the 2012 grand total of $540,000 in the first report.
The Post based their articles off of public and internal charity documents, their review of which found that “errors and gaps” obscured the compensation to Moore. The Foundation, founded in 2002 by Moore, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that opposes same-sex marriage, abortion and transgender rights, supports public prayer and advocates against strict interpretation of the separation of church and state.
The attorney representing the foundation went on to demand the Washington Post “remove any and all false statements from its media sites, notify its constituents and other media that the statements were false, and advise the Foundation of the number of people who visited the sites containing the false information.”
One more article from the Washington Post’s investigative unit reported that the Foundation historic building is up for sale, which could allow Moore to cash in on the $540,000 in back pay because the promissory note was backed by a second mortgage on the Foundation’s headquarters.
Polls currently show Moore leading Jones in the race to be Alabama’s next senator.