The Justice Department will be asked to look into what could be conflict involving congressional lobbying by the National Collegiate Atheletic Association and information it has provided on tax returns about its lobbying.
Rep. John E. Moss (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said yesterday he would refer the matter to Justice a the request of Rep. Jim Santini (D-Nev.).
Tax exempt organizations, such as the NCAA, are not supposed to lobby.
But the definition of lobbying is a gray area in the IRS code, so the matter has been referred to Justice for interpretation.
The code says tax-exempt organizations cannot devote "a substantial part of (their) activity...to) carrying on propaganda or otherwise attempt to influence legislation."
An IRS spokesman said "substantial" is not defined in the code and is a "facts and circumstances type of determination."
NCAA tax turns from 1973 are checked "no" in the box for the answer to the questions: "Has the organization attempted to influence any national, state or local legislation or participated or intervened in any political campaign?"
Citing an NCAA annual report, Santini said the NCAA has "lauded and touted several cases where they have aggressively lobbied."
"It's obvious lobbying has been going on," Moss said of the often politically divided hearings on the NCAA's enforcement procedures. "Unusual preparation has gone on in certain quarters demonstrating that the NCAA has had ready opportunity to present fully its view on what's going on here." Moss did not elaborate. But during the seven days of hearings so far, the minoriyt membes - and Rep. Norman Lent (R-N. Y.), in particular ' appeared to be well briefed by the NCAA in their remarks and questions.
"At my request, I have asked for and received from the NCAA background material, public records and court decisions," Lent said after the hearing. "I wouldn't call it lobbying if I asked for and received information...I don't get questions from them. I get material."
As for implication that the NCAA's views are being provided during the hearings by some members, Lent said, "I would hope that would be the case...It's a back-handed compliment to the balance of his own hearings."
NCAA spokesman Tom Hansen said the NCAA does a "limited amount of lobbying ...a very insignificant amount."
On the tax returns, Hansen said, "We had legal advice in their prepartion. We're very careful about such things. We understand these fine points.
Hansen also said the NCAA's Washington law firm Cox, Langford and Brown, spends a "good percentage" but not all of the time lobbying.
According to the NCAA's 1975 tax return, the firm was paid $265,628.
Much of yesterday's hearing concerned legislation the subcommittee might recommend to reform the NCAA's enforcement program, such as a statutory property right for student athletes.
Burton Brody, a law professor at the Universityof Denver who represented the college and four athletes in an NCAA infractions case, said that if the NCAA dosen't reform itself, Congress should act.
"You can enact legislation stating that participation in intercollegiate athletics is a property richt and protected liberty for universities and their students,." Brody said.
The NCAA, he said, "creates millions of dollars of television and tournament income, markets its endorsements and courts the professional sports industry . . . (then) maintains that participation in intercollegiate athletics is not a property interest so that its governance of them is not subject to judicial scrutiny."
The remarks prompted Moss to say, "We'll have to find out where the NCAA gets its property rights from. The NCAA is selling something when it sells broadcasting and when it engages in promoting merchandise. If it has property rights, it must have got them from the (member) institutions.
"If not, if there is a massive fraud involved, we'll have to refer it to the Federal Trade Commission."