IRS rules prevented Randolph Fair from hosting Trump rally, board says

A crowd gathers for a Trump rally in New Jersey. Photo by David Todd McCarty

The Randolph Fair Board said it was “absolutely prohibited” from accepting a request from Donald Trump’s campaign to hold a political rally at the fairgrounds.

On Saturday, the Portage County Agricultural Society Board of Directors — known colloquially as the fair board — released its first statement since news of the proposed rally came to light.

“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,” they wrote.

“Unfortunately, we regret that much of the information that has been reported to date has been inaccurate,” they added. “Thank you for your support and understanding. We are looking forward to a successful 2022 Portage County Randolph Fair.”

Asked which information was inaccurate, the board declined to comment further.

Portage County Commissioner Sabrina Christian-Bennett said she had been in touch with the Trump campaign and lobbied for the rally. But she told The Portager for an April 6 story that the board has “a policy that they don’t want politics. They allow political parties to rent a booth at the fair, but they do not allow rallies or political fundraisers.”

The board’s statement suggests the policy may be guided primarily by federal tax laws, with booth rentals for political parties falling within the parameters of what a nonprofit can legally do — which can include educational activities.

According to the board’s statement:

“The Portage County Agricultural Society dba Randolph Fair is organized exclusively for charitable purposes, including, the making of distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations described under Section 501(C)(3) of the internal revenue code or corresponding section of any future federal tax code. The purpose of this Society shall be to promote and encourage agriculture, horticulture, development of livestock, domestic industries, encouragement and promotion of junior fair and school exhibits, and the encouragement of all educational activities with the aim of building a better community. This shall be accomplished primarily through the promotion and organization of the annual county fair.”

In an interview with the Record-Courier, Portage County Commissioner Tony Badalamenti was quoted as saying, “I think any president who would like to come to Portage County, it would be an honor to have them. We were pretty blatantly rude to their [Trump’s] advance team.”

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Ben Wolford is the editor and publisher of The Portager.

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