September 9, 2010
Tax-Exempt Trade Groups to Increase Political Spending in 2010
USA Today reports that certain large publicly-traded corporations do not plan to directly support the political advertising of their affiliated trade groups via contributions. Notwithstanding, these same companies will not restrict the political spending of such nonprofit trade associations, which are permitted to spend their funds on advertising targeting candidates for public office. One of the largest trade associations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has publicly announced its intention to spend $75 million in the 2010 elections. The Chamber, which represents over 3 million businesses, reportedly spent nearly $1 million in one day's worth of television advertising focusing on the U.S. Senate seat in New Hampshire. In the article, the president of the non-partisan Center for Political Accountability opined that, "[m]ore and more trade associations are the vehicles for company political spending and activity."
Of the 40 Fortune 500 companies that responded to the Center's survey, not one responded that it would use its own corporate funds to run political advertising supporting or opposing a candidate for public office, although companies are allowed to do just that on an unlimited basis following the Supreme Court's January decision in Citizen's United v. FEC, as previously blogged. Most companies, opined one political expert in the USA Today article, do not want to be directly associated with a certain candidate. The use of nonprofit trade groups ostensibly allows companies to affect a particular election without any public retribution.
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