Calling in the Feds on Nonprofit Front Groups

October 25, 2010

by Kevin Zeese

One reason why the U.S. sees ongoing wars, massive military budgets and record arms sales is because the military industrial complex spends massively on elections.  This year, corporate spending on elections is worse than ever thanks to the Citizens United decision and political operatives like Karl Rove who have created nonprofit front groups to hide the source of campaign donations.  These front groups are designed to evade federal election laws and federal tax laws.  The violations of law are quite evident.

Taking an Unusual Step

As a result of this, our allied organization Prosperity Agenda, took a major step on Thursday. We asked the Department of Justice to begin a criminal investigation of nonprofits being used to take unlimited, anonymous donations in an attempt to influence the vote.

I am not a big fan of the government investigating nonprofits so it was unusual for me to take the step we took today. Not only did we ask that the organizations be investigated, but also that those who created the groups, raised money for them and donated money to them be investigated as well.  If press reports are accurate, their actions seem to be a conspiracy to violate federal election laws as well as tax laws.  You can read a copy of the letter to DOJ here http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=bLHvb6HYwiE2uhRZAHkbeOw92hCjCfk3 .

In a complaint we filed yesterday with the FEC, we made the case that these nonprofits are violating federal election laws because they have failed to register as political committees despite their record spending on political advertisements.  And they are violating the tax laws because they are misusing their non-profit status for electioneering.

Major Election Scandal

I tend to agree with Democratic National Committee Chair Tim Kaine that this may be the biggest election scandal since Watergate http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=DzymP6HjKN0RfWOVLfYphuw92hCjCfk3 (and if you know me, saying I agree with either party, including the Democrats, is unusual).   Concentrated corporate power is using front group nonprofits to collect massive, anonymous election contributions and thereby evade federal election law which requires disclosure of donors.  This is a significant threat to American elections.

The only way to stop this is through the Department of Justice.  We are seeing a crime being committed right before our eyes yet the only party that can stop it is silent.  Our letter to DOJ gives the road map and jurisdiction for criminal action against these “threat to democracy” groups.

Lying on the Air

And, the other part of the story that has not gotten a lot of coverage is these anonymously funded advertisements are often false and misleading.  In fact, television stations are going so far as to pull advertisements being submitted by Karl Rove and the Chamber of Commerce off the air. http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=qMUI5oVbQcCjlwl57O/Tcuw92hCjCfk3

We need your help in keeping the pressure on.  Please write your representatives in Congress and the Department of Justice urging a criminal investigation. Click here http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=cZ6wukgto629XPety1Qk4+w92hCjCfk3 to take action today.

Second, donate to our efforts http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=GRwYl16wwMt/QccPonZaHew92hCjCfk3. We need financial support to continue our efforts at challenging corporate power in U.S. democracy.

Thank you for taking action. We are making a difference. Φ

Kevin Zeese is Executive Director of Voters for Peace.

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