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Vandersloot target of 2 federal audits

Idaho multimillionaire and big-money Republican donor Frank Vandersloot is the target of two new federal audits, the Associated Press reports, one by the Internal Revenue Service and the other by the U.S. Department of Labor. Vandersloot, the founder and CEO of Idaho Falls-based health care products company Melaleuca Inc., said he learned of the two federal inquires within the last month. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

Vandersloot subject of IRS, Labor Dept. audits
By TODD DVORAK, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho multimillionaire and big-money Republican donor Frank Vandersloot has found himself the subject of two new federal audits, one by the Internal Revenue Service and the other by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Vandersloot, the founder and CEO of Idaho Falls-based health care products company Melaleuca Inc., said he learned of the two federal inquires within the last month and intends to cooperate.

What he doesn't understand is the timing.

Vandersloot is no stranger to bare-knuckle politics and using his wealth to influence state and national elections. He is among the wealthy donors who have given at least $1 million to a political action committee supporting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The 63-year-old Mormon entrepreneur is also a national campaign finance co-chair for Romney and one of eight Romney donors singled out in April by President Barack Obama's campaign for having questionable and troubling records on various issues.

Sixty-one days after the Obama campaign posted the list of Romney donors, Vandersloot said he received a letter from the IRS, his first-ever audit from the agency.

"It's all fine and well," Vandersloot told The Associated Press Wednesday. "I am not claiming there is a connection, and don't know if there is one.

"But the fact that it comes right on the heels of being named on the president's enemies list is curious to say the least," he said.

A spokesman from the Obama Administration declined comment Wednesday, deferring instead to responses from the federal agencies. Officials from the president's campaign did not immediately respond to messages left by the AP Wednesday.

IRS spokeswoman Julianne Breitbeil Fisher says federal laws prohibit the agency from discussing taxpayer information with anyone. In general, she said, the IRS stresses that enforcement decisions are made by career civil servants and are based solely on the tax law and nothing else.

The IRS audit will focus on the personal tax returns filed by Vandersloot and his wife for 2008 and 2009. Vandersloot says he has already turned over the notice to his accountant.

The Labor Department audit will examine three temporary foreign workers employed at Vandersloot's Riverbend Ranch, a cattle operation based at two locations in southwestern Montana. Vandersloot said all three employees have worked at the ranch for at least five years.

The employees are part of the government's H-2A program, which allows thousands of workers temporary certification to work in the country. Auditors have requested information on the workload, earnings and any difference in wages between the temporary workers and others performing the same duties on the ranch.

Spokesman Joshua Lamont says there is no immediate information available on what triggered the audit and says typically audits for this program are selected at random.

"It's not uncommon for companies that use temporary foreign workers to see how employers are using the program, and to make sure Americans are getting a fair shot at those jobs," he said.

In April, the Obama campaign posted a website entry entitled "Keeping the GOP Honest." Vandersloot was among eight big-money Romney donors with "less than reputable" records on important national issues, according to the website.

The website describes Vandersloot as a "litigious, combative, and a bitter foe of the gay rights movement," and cites his campaign in 1999 against a program Idaho Public Television intended to run about homosexual issues in public schools. Vandersloot helped purchase 25 billboards across the state protesting the use of tax dollars and the public station's decision to air the show, arguing the content of the program was not suitable for children.

Vandersloot insists the billboard campaign was not an attack on homosexuals, but whether it's appropriate to use tax dollars to promote a certain lifestyle.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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