Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Super PACs Supporting Candidates of Each Major Party in the News

In Democratic Nonprofits Send Funds to 'Super PACs,’ the Los Angeles Times reports that “two Democratic nonprofit groups that do not disclose their donors made payments last year to their affiliated ‘super PACs,’ a tactic that can be used to undermine transparency.”  Representatives of the organizations reportedly (off record) have maintained that the nonprofits just reimbursed the super PACs for administrative costs.  Says the Times:

[C]ampaign finance experts said that such transfers underscore a troubling relationship between super PACs and their affiliated 501(c)4 social welfare organizations. The latter are "weakening transparency in the political world," said Michael J. Malbin, executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute. …

The dual-armed groups are part of a phenomenon that took off in 2010 after several court decisions, including the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case. That led to the advent of super PACs — independent political action committees that can accept massive donations, as long as they do not coordinate with the candidates or party committees.

Super PACs must disclose their contributors to the FEC. But that's not the case with 501(c)4 social welfare organizations, which are allowed to participate in a limited amount of political activity. Under the current guidelines, nonprofits can't spend more than 49% of their budget on political activities, including donations to super PACs. Yet even with these limitations, electioneering by such groups has swelled in the last two years.

In  Conservative Group Funnels Money to Super PAC, USA Today reports that a group with Tea Party ties “has funneled more than $1.3 million in anonymous contributions to a super PAC working aggressively to unseat Utah Sen. Orriin Hatch and other congressional veterans, raising alarms among some watchdogs that these outside groups are emerging as a new avenue for secret political money.”

The story continues:

The non-profit's money paid legal expenses, salaries, overhead and travel for the super PAC, which is working hard to recruit and train activists to become delegates to the Utah's Republican convention this spring where Hatch must stand for renomination. A similar campaign by outside groups helped oust three-term Sen. Bob Bennett at the 2010 GOP gathering.

Russ Walker, the super PAC's national political director, said there's "absolutely no" attempt to hide donations. The super PAC's non-profit arm is supported by more than 40,000 people, many of whom donate in small amounts, he said. "They give to our institution because they believe in our mission, which is smaller government."



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