November 3, 2008
Nonprofit Groups Spend Close to $400 Million in Soft Money on Election
The Campaign Finance Institute issued a report that tax-exempt section 501(c) and section 527 groups that can collect soft money - i.e., funds not subject to federal limits on contributions - have already either collected or spent approximately $350 million on the election, placing them on course to top $400 million when all is said and done. This figure includes $185 million collected by 527s through October 15th, well below the $338 million raised by such groups in 2004 by this date but well above the $117 million they received during the entire 2006 election cycle. The remainder of the total amount is an estimated $165 million that it appears various section 501(c) organizations have spent on activities that appear to represent political campaign intervention under the federal tax rules. These groups are primarily either section 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations or section 501(c)(6) trade associations, and include both long-standing groups such as the NRA and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund as well as groups of more recent vintage and with more generic names, such as the American Future Fund and Health Care for Americans Now. Interestingly, the 527 groups appear to be more weighted toward the Democratic side while the 501(c)s trend more Republican, indicating that conservatives are gravitating more to the latter while liberals are sticking with the former, at least for now.
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