There seems to be plenty of agreement that many of the 501(c)(3) groups testing the limits of campaign spending laws will not feel the tug of the leash.
Problems with the I.R.S. could lead to tax penalties and revocation of tax-exempt status. But nonprofit groups engaging heavily in express advocacy could also run into issues with the Federal Election Commission. If the commission determines that a group’s “major purpose” is political, the group is required to register as a political committee and disclose its donors.
The commission’s three Republican members, however, are generally inclined to give these groups leeway, effectively deadlocking the commission because it is split along party lines, and a majority vote is required for it to act.
And in any event, any effective scrutiny would come after the election and well after anything can be done to change its outcome.
The New York Times' Michael Luo has a clear explanation of what the limits are supposed to be as well a carefully drawn conclusion that only in the worst cases will illegal spending get any real scrutiny. The IRS is lenient and their rules leave plenty of room for debate. The FEC is, well, feckless and politicized. A Republican Congress isn't about to investigate. The people will be left, once again, with the certainty that Washington is betraying them.
Other spending reports show a Democratic party testing the limits in its own way... well, sort of. The Hill presents this as a counter to the attack on Republicans for accepting foreign influence and money. Republican are calling that attack hypocritical, looking for equivalency between Republican and Democratic funding sources. That's a stretch. See what you think.
House and Senate Democrats have received approximately $1.02 million this cycle from such PACs, according to an analysis compiled for The Hill by the Center for Responsive Politics. House and Senate GOP leaders have taken almost $510,000 from PACs on the same list.
The PACS are funded entirely by contributions from U.S. employees of subsidiaries of foreign companies. All of the contributions are made public under Federal Elections Commission rules, and the PACs affiliated with the subsidiaries of foreign corporations are governed by the same rules that American firms' PACs or other PACs would face.
"This is not foreign money per-se, but these PACs are certainly populated by people who work for foreign companies," said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.
Well, "not foreign money per se" seems to be the closer. Unions are beefing up their contributions to Democrats now that the party seems to be in big trouble.