“Social welfare” organizations outspent super pacs by a 3-2 margin

Stealthy political nonprofits reigned in the 2010 elections

Super PACs-Shmooper PACs, reports iWatch News’ Michael Beckel:

"While super PACs were cast as the big, bad wolves during the last election, the groups were outspent by “social welfare” organizations by a 3-2 margin, a trend that may continue amid reports that major donors are giving tens of millions of dollars to the secretive nonprofit groups."

A joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that more than 100 nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code spent roughly $95 million on political expenditures in the 2010 election compared with $65 million by super PACs.

Read the joint report on iWatch News or OpenSecrets Blog.


Reading the fine print

What the hell is a "social welfare" non-profit? Hmmm. Let me think. How about the NRA?

I can't even begin to find a methodology statement, but the implication that "social welfare" is the proper categorization of non-profits doesn't pass the smell test.

From the report:

In terms of party allegiance, conservative “social welfare” groups outspent liberal groups $78 million to $16 million, nearly 5-to-1, according to the analysis.

New York's AG investigating 501(c)4s incl. Chamber of Commerce

From an article of these groups and their influence from the New York Times:

...Mr. Schneiderman’s investigation is the first significant one in years into the rapidly growing use of tax-exempt groups to move money into politics. The biggest such groups, including Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which was founded by Karl Rove and other Republican strategists, are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this year on issue advertisements against candidates to sway the outcome of the presidential and Congressional elec


"But the sources of that money are largely obscured from public view by mazes of transactions between allied groups and laws that allow tax-exempt organizations — unlike candidates and “super PACs” — to shield their donors..."

Martha Brock

Some social welfare groups are notorious...

Others not so much. Here's a story that caught my eye today about Karl Rove's 501 (c)4:

Obama’s Lawyer Demands Information on Group’s Donors

"The lawyer for President Obama demanded on Tuesday that Crossroads GPS disclose its donors, saying in a complaint to the Federal Election Commission that the group is plainly a “political committee” subject to federal reporting requirements.

In the complaint, obtained by The New York Times, Robert F. Bauer, the campaign’s chief counsel, writes that the group — founded by Karl Rove, among others — can no longer shield the identity of its donors by defining itself as a “social welfare” organization.

“Crossroads seems to believe that it can run out the clock and spend massive sums of money in this election without accounting for a trace of its funding,” Mr. Bauer wrote in the complaint, filed Tuesday. “Now, a federal appellate court has issued a ruling that makes clear that Crossroads is out of time...”

Martha Brock