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Profile: Arthur Porth
Arthur Porth was a participant or observer in the following events:
Arthur Porth, a Wichita, Kansas, building contractor, files a claim in a Kansas court to recover his income tax payment of $151. Porth argues that the 16th Amendment is unconstitutional because it places the taxpayer in a position of involuntary servitude contrary to the 13th Amendment. The court rules against Porth, but the defeat does not stop him. For 16 years Porth continues battling the income tax requirement, finding new and inventive challenges to the practice. He claims that the 16th Amendment “put[s] Americans into economic bondage to the international bankers,” a claim that the Southern Poverty Law Center will call “a thinly veiled anti-Semitic reference to the supposed ‘international Jewish banking conspiracy.’” He also argues that because paper money is not backed by gold or silver, taxpayers are not obligated to pay their taxes because “Federal Reserve notes are not dollars.” In 1961, Porth files an income tax return that is blank except for a statement declaring that he is pleading the Fifth Amendment, essentially claiming that filling out a tax return violates his right of protection from self-incrimination, a scheme that quickly becomes popular among anti-tax protesters. Porth becomes an activist and garners something of a following among right-wing audiences, traveling around the country distributing tax protest literature that includes a book, A Manual for Those Who Think That They Must Pay an Income Tax. He even issues his own “arrest warrants” against “bureaucrats” whom, in his view, violate the Constitution. In 1967, Porth is convicted of a number of tax evasion charges, but, as the Anti-Defamation League will later write, “he had already become a grass-roots hero to the nascent tax protest movement.” His cause is championed by, among others, William Potter Gale, who will go on to found the racist, anti-government Posse Comitatus movement (see 1969). Gale uses the newsletter of his Ministry of Christ Church, a church espousing the racist and anti-Semitic theology of Christian Identity (see 1960s and After), to promote Porth and the early tax rebellion movement. Porth exhausts his appeals and goes to jail; though sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, he only serves 77 days. One of Porth’s most active followers is his lawyer, Jerome Daly, whose activism eventually leads to his disbarment (see December 9, 1968 and After). Daly meets Porth in 1965 and files his own “protest” tax return just days before Porth is indicted by a grand jury. Daly is also convicted of tax evasion; in 1969, a federal appeals court will issue a ruling invalidating what has by then become known as the “Porth-Daly Fifth Amendment Return.” Porth receives the support of several far-right organizations, many of whom tie their racist views into his anti-tax protests. In a 1967 article for the far-right American Mercury magazine, tax protester and editor Martin A. Larson writes, “The negroes in the United States are increasing at a rate at least twice as great as the rest of the population,” and warns that the tax burden posed by blacks “unquestionably doomed… the American way of life.” Larson will later write regular columns for the white supremacist magazine The Spotlight, in which he will call black women prostitutes whose “offspring run wild in the streets, free to forage their food in garbage cans, and grow up to become permanent reliefers, criminals, rioters, looters, and, in turn, breeders of huge litters of additional human beings belonging to the same category.” He will also write several books promoting Porth’s anti-tax protest strategies. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2001; Anti-Defamation League, 2011]
Arizona tax protester Marvin Cooley writes a best-selling book, The Big Bluff, documenting the struggles of his fellow anti-tax protester, W. Vaughn Ellsworth. Cooley, whose gruff tirades against the IRS and the federal government make him popular on the far-right speaking circuit—in 1971, he wrote to the IRS: “I will no longer pay for the destruction of my country, family, and self. Damn tyranny! Damn the Federal Reserve liars and thieves! Damn all pettifogging, oath-breaking US attorneys and judges.… I will see you all in Hell and shed my blood before I will be robbed of one more dollar to finance a national policy of treason, plunder, and corruption”—includes sample letters and copies of his own tax returns in his book. Among Cooley’s adherents is Robert Jay Mathews, who will go on to found the violent neo-Nazi group The Order (see Late September 1983). In 1970, the 17-year-old Mathews, still living with his parents in Phoenix, becomes a sergeant-at-arms for some of Cooley’s meetings. In 1973, Mathews will use Cooley’s income tax theories to fraudulently list 10 dependents on his W-4 tax form, a common protest tactic that winds up with Mathews convicted of tax fraud (see 1973). Cooley, a vocal proponent of tax protester Arthur Porth (see 1951-1967)‘s “Fifth Amendment Return” strategy (refusing to pay taxes on Fifth Amendment grounds) will go to jail for tax evasion in 1973 and again in 1989. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2001; Anti-Defamation League, 2011]
Financial and insurance consultant Irwin Schiff uses the anti-tax arguments of Arthur Porth (see 1951-1967) and Marvin Cooley (see 1970-1972) to bring the anti-tax protest message to a much more mainstream audience than Porth, whose appeal was largely confined to right-wing and racist audiences. Schiff, who bills himself as “America’s leading untax expert,” will appear on national television for more than 25 years before eventually going to jail for tax evasion. His biggest impact comes with his 1976 book, The Biggest Con: How the Government is Fleecing You. His second book, published six years later, is called How Anyone Can Stop Paying Income Taxes. The Biggest Con earns him $135,000 in royalties over the two years that follow its publication, and $85,000 in royalties for the decade following. In 1978, Schiff is charged for failing to file tax returns, and eventually convicted; he will be convicted of similar charges in 1985 and again in 2005. He tells one judge: “I only received federal reserve units, not dollars. I received no lawful money upon which a tax can be collected.” The US government says Schiff owes over $2.6 million in back taxes, interest, and penalties. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2001; Tax Protester Dossiers, 10/23/2010] In 1996, Schiff will be a candidate for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president. [C-SPAN, 7/5/1996]
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