Originally created 04/09/04

Race to put Swanson on job fence

AIKEN - If she decides to keep her job while running for office, Republican state Senate candidate Susan Swanson will have to walk the tightrope of federal laws governing the tax-exempt status of her employer, Heritage Community Services, an Internal Revenue Service spokesman said Thursday.

Although tax law doesn't automatically bar her from challenging veteran state Sen. Tommy Moore, D-Clearwater, while holding her $50,000-a-year post with the nonprofit abstinence education group, Mrs. Swanson has to run as "a private individual," said Eric Erickson, a spokesman in the IRS' regional office in Atlanta.

She also must be careful she doesn't violate prohibitions against Heritage resources being used to support any political campaign, a broad category that ranges from salary to office space, said Mr. Erickson, who made it clear he was not making a formal IRS finding on Mrs. Swanson's situation.

"We don't prohibit this from going on, but it's going to be very difficult," Mr. Erickson said. "The person who does this must be very careful because ultimately, their actions will come back on the organization."

Mrs. Swanson, who has vacillated between challenging Mr. Moore and withdrawing from the race, said Wednesday she would end her candidacy rather than give up her job. Her boss, Heritage founder and President Anne Badgley, said she would take action to protect her group's tax-exempt status as a charitable education organization, including a request that Mrs. Swanson resign or take a leave of absence.

Founded in 1995 by Mrs. Badgley, Heritage relies on a mix of federal and private foundation grants, including more than $1.2 million in federal money routed through the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Mrs. Swanson's program is funded by a portion of another $800,000 federal grant paid directly to Heritage Community Services and split between their regional offices, Mrs. Badgley said.

Reach Jim Nesbitt at (803) 648-1395

or jim.nesbitt@augustachronicle.com.


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