Federal Politics

Published — November 18, 2015 Updated — December 8, 2015 at 3:17 pm ET

Secret donors fuel Democratic political powerhouse

Patriot Majority USA raised $30 million in ‘dark money’ last year

Introduction

Democratic Party-aligned “dark money” powerhouse Patriot Majority USA collected half of the $30 million it raised last year from five anonymous donors, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of a new tax filing from the group.

Patriot Majority USA was a major player in the Democrats’ failed bid to retain control of the U.S. Senate last year — a time when many Democratic candidates decried the influx of “dark money” in politics.

Led by Craig Varoga, a staunch ally of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., it was a particularly prolific force on television.

The group aired more than 15,000 TV ads in key Senate races, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data provided by advertising firm Kantar Media/CMAG, which monitors broadcast and national cable TV ads. Not a single one was positive.

In all, 40 percent of the $34 million Patriot Majority USA spent in 2014 went toward “direct and indirect political campaign activities,” according to the group’s new tax filing — nearly $13.7 million.

But like other “social welfare” nonprofit groups organized under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the tax code, Patriot Majority USA is not required to publicly disclose the names of its donors.

Thus, it’s largely unknown who funded its political operations, which proved generally unsuccessful as Democratic incumbents lost in races across the country, including Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, where the nonprofit group was the most active.

Such opacity contrasts with many Democrats’ rhetoric decrying secret money in politics and organizing to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The ruling, in part, freed certain nonprofit groups to spend massive amounts of money on politics while withholding information about their contributors.

The biggest donor to the nonprofit gave $8.25 million, according to the new filing with the Internal Revenue Service, which lists the amounts received by Patriot Majority USA last year but not the donors’ names.

Six other unknown donors gave seven-figure sums. One gave $2.7 million. Another gave $2.2 million. One gave $1.2 million. And three gave $1 million.

About three-dozen other donors gave at least $100,000.

Other government filings indicate that some of Patriot Majority USA’s financial support came from labor unions.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, for instance, gave Patriot Majority USA $750,000 in 2014, according to documents it submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, in its own Department of Labor filings, the American Federation of Teachers states it gave Patriot Majority USA $550,000 last year.

Filings further show that the National Education Association gave Patriot Majority USA $50,000 last year and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters gave $10,000.

Campaign finance filings submitted to the Federal Election Commission also show that Democratic super PAC Senate Majority PAC contributed about $35,000 to Patriot Majority USA last year.

In the past, Patriot Majority USA has also received money from trade groups such as the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare and the American Health Care Association.

Varoga, in an emailed statement, defended Patriot Majority USA’s work.

“Our c4 has been recognized by the IRS and has a very well defined, multi-year, bipartisan primary purpose, which is to work on economic solutions and encourage job creation throughout the United States,” he wrote. “The political work that we do is secondary to the larger economic mission of the Patriot Majority Action Plan.”

Patriot Majority USA’s significant spending on elections in 2014 drew fire from political observers on both the left and right.

“Under current law, that is unfortunately what is allowed, so groups on both sides of the aisle do what is allowed,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of consumer group Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

“It’s part of the reason why we need to fight to change the rules,” Gilbert continued, noting that her group has supported a push for the IRS to adopt more stringent rules on how much electoral activity such nonprofits can engage in. “Until we do so, money will flow in the directions it can.”

Conservative attorney Cleta Mitchell — who vehemently disagrees with Public Citizen’s call for new limits on nonprofits’ political spending — also criticized Varoga’s group.

“I don’t have an objection to an organization spending 40 percent of its money on political activities,” Mitchell said.

“What I do object to is the hypocrisy,” she continued. “Democrats are total hypocrites on all of this.”

This story was co-published with Al Jazeera America.

Read more in Federal Politics

Share this article

Join the conversation

Show Comments

11
Leave a Reply

avatar
9 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
8 Comment authors
SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Mark Sullivan
Guest
Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
Guest
CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
Guest
George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
Guest
j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

jan v
Guest
jan v

all the lobbyists are running all our government agencies and all the career civil servants who know how to run the country have been fired. YOU think this is a good thing ? what a crock…

thomas alessi
Guest
thomas alessi

I am for Trump

Martin Shellabarger
Guest

J. Stevenson, what are you drinking? Trump has more lobbyists in his administration than probably any other president. Trump is totally “for sale”, and the corporations know it. Grow a brain!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
Guest
Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
Guest

hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
Guest
SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
Guest
Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
Guest
Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
Guest
South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
Guest
SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
Guest
David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.