Corporations are operating in secrecy when it comes to campaign contributions. At some point, we're going to have to force the IRS to investigate and shut down "social welfare" organizations -- spurious 501(c)(4)'s -- and give corporations a shove into democratic sunlight.
...There is growing evidence that large corporations are trying to influence campaigns by donating money to tax-exempt organizations that can spend millions of dollars without being subject to the disclosure requirements that apply to candidates, parties and PACs.
The secrecy shrouding these groups makes a full accounting of corporate influence on the electoral process impossible. But glimpses of their donors emerged in a New York Times review of corporate governance reports, tax returns of nonprofit organizations and regulatory filings by insurers and labor unions. ...NYT
For a long time, citizens have be able to use their economic power by boycotting -- just refusing to buy services and goods from -- corporations using their money for what many believe are corrupt or just inappropriate purposes. Now corporations are allowed to influence public policy while wearing a mask, thanks to the Supreme Court and to the proliferation of the "social welfare" bundlers.
Corporations appear to be focusing on local as well as national politics. In other words, Merck can buy your school board.
The review found that corporate donations — many of them previously unreported — went to groups large and small, dedicated to shaping public policy on the state and national levels. From a redistricting fight in Minnesota to the sprawling battleground of the 2012 presidential and Congressional elections, corporations are opening their wallets and altering the political world.
Some of the biggest recipients of corporate money are organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, the federal designation for “social welfare” groups dedicated to advancing broad community interests. Because they are not technically political organizations, they do not have to register with or disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission, potentially shielding corporate contributors from shareholders or others unhappy with their political positions.
“Companies want to be able to quietly push for their political agendas without being held accountable for it by their customers,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has filed complaints against issue groups. “I think the 501(c)(4)’s are likely to outweigh super PAC spending, because so many donors want to remain anonymous.” ...NYT
And, by the way, these 501(c)(4)'s have a very loose idea of what education is. "Education" is, of course, a legitimate goal of the 501(c)(4). But is this education?
In May, for example, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a group co-founded by the Republican strategist Karl Rove, began a $25 million advertising campaign, carefully shaped with focus groups of undecided voters, that attacks Mr. Obama for increasing the federal deficit and urges him to cut spending. ...NYT
Or has the IRS effectively given them the go ahead to spend millions on politicking as long as they call their activities "educational"?
The Internal Revenue Service has no clear test for determining what constitutes excessive political activity by a social welfare group. And tax-exempt groups are permitted to begin raising and spending money even before the I.R.S. formally recognizes them. Two years after helping Republicans win control of the House with millions of dollars in issue advertising, Crossroads GPS’s application for tax-exempt status is still pending. ...NYT
The super pacs are bad enough. These 501(c)(4)'s turn out to be far worse.
All the media attention given to super PACs and to colorful, publicity-seeking donors such as Sheldon Adelson, has diverted attention from what’s likely the more important money spigot, the money 501c4’s spend on political advertising. As with super PACs, donors are not limited in the amounts they can give to these 501c4 groups.
A new study by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics shows that more political spending was done by 501c4s in the 2010 elections than by Super PACs, which raise unlimited sums of money but are required to disclose their donors.
“Super PACs -- while you hear a lot about them -- are not going to be the vehicle of choice for a majority of the money that’s going to flow into elections,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who is pushing for legislation to require disclosure of donors to 501c4s if they engage in political activity. Van Hollen is also suing the Federal Election Commission to try to restrict ads run by 501c4s. ...MSNBC
It gets worse!!
Remember all that lah-di-dah -- most recently heard when the Supreme Court a little while back came out with the Knox v. SEIU decision? You will when you watch this Maddow video. It not only reminds you about what you might have misunderstood (as Rachel Maddow did), but it will give you a post Affordable Care headsup. The Court is not warm and fuzzy. It's unjust, it's dirty, it's nefarious, and it's a blot on America's escutcheon (if America had one). The Court has blessed the level playing field for corporations and unons? Bullshit!