In what could be one of the most clever responses to a Senate tax inquiry to date, John Copeland, Kenneth Copeland's son and CEO of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, walked into the Dallas IRS office yesterday and offered the ministry's cooperation should the agency pursue a church tax inquiry. The CBS Dallas station broke the story. The results of any IRS examination are not available to the public.
The move appears to be an attempt to blunt the public and persistent investigation by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. But early indicators suggest the Senator will not be deterred. And tax experts say an IRS church tax inquiry and a Senate investigation do two different things. An IRS inquiry checks for illegal activity, while an oversight investigation looks at whether or not laws or policies need to change.
Copeland's letter to the IRS indicates that after an IRS inquiry is concluded, documents could be shared with the Senator's staff.
However, all financial details would remain private.
Copeland has long maintained that the Senator's investigation is a violation of the First Amendment and says this type of inquiry is an inappropriate use of Congressional oversight.
Copeland and another affiliated minister, Creflo Dollar of College Park, Georgia, are the two holdouts in Grassley's investigation into the finances of six top televangelist ministries. Four other ministers have said they will cooperate.
Grassley's investigators are focused on two potential abuses of the ministries' non-profit status: excessive compensation and the potential mixing of non-profit church donations with for-profit businesses.
Former employees have told CBS News that ministry resources were used for Copeland's for-profit horse and cattle ranches. CBS News has also learned that some of the ministry's airplanes were used for private travel.