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Dark Money Group Told IRS It Wasn’t Political — Then Spent $1 Million On Campaign Ads

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Dark Money Group Told IRS It Wasn’t Political — Then Spent $1 Million On Campaign Ads


by Justin Elliott, ProPublica.

A dark money nonprofit group that has run more than $1 million in ads in the Ohio race for U.S. Senate told the IRS last year it did not plan to spend any money to influence elections when it applied for recognition of its tax-exempt status.

ProPublica first reported on the group, the Government Integrity Fund, after information from television station political ad files became available online (see our Free the Files project), showing extensive spending by the Fund.

The group’s filings with the IRS  illustrate how “social welfare” nonprofits, also known as 501(c)(4)s, are playing an aggressive role in this election, pouring tens of millions of dollars into races around the country, while taking advantage of the donor anonymity their tax status provides.

The Fund applied for IRS recognition last December and received the IRS’ approval less than two months later.

Question 15 on the application asks, “Has the organization spent or does it plan to spend any money attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any person to any Federal, state, or local public office or to an office in a political organization?”

Much hinges on this: Under the tax code, social welfare nonprofits may not have political campaign activity as their primary purpose, though exactly what that means is a subject of much debate.

Fund chairman Tom Norris, who signed the Fund’s application, checked the “No” box on Question 15.

In a statement to ProPublica, the Fund said that “legally, the concept of ‘influencing elections’ has been narrowly defined” and that “throughout its existence, [the Fund] has regularly consulted with experienced tax counsel to ensure it is in full compliance with the federal tax laws.” (See the full statement.) Norris, a Columbus lobbyist, did not respond to calls.


  1. daniel bostdorf October 4, 2012

    We need a Justice Department investigation or special prosecutor named to investigate.

  2. bcarreiro October 4, 2012

    Well is the irs going to pursue this or just let it go? If im eligibable for a deduction and i didnt know i was, i dont get paid and u certainly to make me aware of this entitlement but when the irs wants their money they get it from the middleclass and small business……..when does big business pay their fairshare and not get away from being a ckbox away from fraud.

  3. Alexander Scipio October 11, 2012

    Meanwhile, back on THIS side of the looking glass…

    College tuition has gone up faster than inflation BECAUSE of the involvement of the federal government. Look at the stats. Give a college lots of new students on someone else’s money and they’re gonna charge for it. No surprise here. Want college costs to drop? Get the govt out of the college loan business completely. (And when Obamacare is repealed and we acknowledge that if they’re old enough to vote and enter combat, they aren’t “children” any longer, and that all they need for insurance is a JOB, something Obama is removing from their future, we can see that Obamacare is not needed for these kiddies. The primary fact of Obamacare is this: If it were any good, Congress and the president would not be exempted from it.)

    Seniors have far more to lose from Dems railing against the reality that their program is BANKRUPT. Nothing in the current Medicare system will survive Dem manipulations of it. The only way Dems have of lowering prescription drug costs is IPAB – killing-off seniors. Progs may think this a wonderful thing. We’ll see, if and when older Progs start offing themselves.

    Uninsured. If you don’t like uninsured, vote for YOUR state to fix it at the STATE level. We now know it is NOT a commerce clause issue, so it isn’t a fed govt issue, and it isn’t in the 18 enumerated powers. Or, of course, you can pass an Amendment. Tough to see the difference between 45K people dying from noninsurance annually (as if ANY Harvard stat is reliable), and dying from IPAB, however. Again, though, if Obamacare is any good why is Obama waiving it for all his union buddies? The fact is that it sucks, and Congress, the president and the unions all know it.

    It’s funny to read lines like “[Obamacare] is simply a lifesaver…” when IPAB exists, isn’t it? But, then, Progs are not long on logic, or they wouldn’t BE Progs. It’s even funnier to read about saving sick kiddies from the party that demands the right to kill healthy ones, isn’t it? And I support abortion – it’s just the Prog insensibility to hypocrisy that is laughable.

    Just because some groups have “come to expect” something (Planned Parenthood) doesn’t mean they have a right to it. I mean, I once expected a decent useful education including the development of critical thinking skills, but that has not been met by K-12 in decades… If someone wants an abortion – go for it; but to demand I pay for their choice? Nonsense. It’s THEIR CHOICE. Adults understand that adults make choices and then pay the consequences OF those choices. Only kiddies expect others to pay for their choices. (And don’t bother with Planned Parenthood being not JUST about abortion; we all know that if the feds funded all the other stuff but refused abortion, y’all would be screaming even more loudly.)

    Medicare. Really? It’s going broke. Either it gets saved or it remains in stasis. Stasis – bankruptcy. Progs want Medicare bankrupt, obviously, as they refuse to change it. (Of course, Progs can’t handle any change anywhere at any time, so this isn’t surprising. Prog=Luddite.) Wyden/Ryan plan can save it. Leaving status-quo simply cannot. So – if you want Medicare to exist, you need to vote for the GOP, as Obama will bankrupt it – and the nation – and it won’t be here for anyone. That’s just a fact.


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