OpenSecrets: 24 Major 501(C)(4) Nonprofits Spend More Than 50% of Budgets on Political Spending

A new report from the Center for Responsive Politics has published a new report showing that 24 major, politically active nonprofits have spent more than 50 percent of their budgets to influence elections in at least one year between 2008 and 2012.

The problem? It’s against federal regulations.

The report, published recently on, explains:

Most of the groups are 501(c)(4) organizations –– like public charities but organized under a section of the tax code that classifies them as “social welfare” nonprofits. That designation allows them to shield the identities of their donors from public view and to accept funds in any amount from almost any source. They can also spend unlimited amounts. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service regulations require that (c)(4) groups be “primarily operated” to promote social welfare, which, according to the IRS, means that their political activity must make up less than 50 percent of what they do.

And the effects of this spending? The report states:

“To disclosure advocates like John Pudner, executive director of the conservative group Take Back Our Republic, that means money is hidden when it shouldn’t be. ‘Certainly it seems like everyone’s ignoring the 50 percent…it certainly seems like some of these [groups’] primary goal is electioneering,’ Pudner said.

The effect, Pudner says, is discouraging for many citizens. Grassroots activists used to feel they could affect elections as big as the 2004 presidential race, he said. “Now that the perception is just, all this dark money is flying around and they’ve become irrelevant — it really hurts the grassroots.'”

The read the entire report, click here.

For more on “dark money,” click here and here and here.


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