Federal Politics

Published — October 2, 2008 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Americans for limited credibility

Tax-exempt political group threatens to reveal donors for “leftist” groups, but doesn’t identify its own

Introduction

A major libertarian political activist has sent thousands of letters to liberal funders threatening to expose them in their local communities, Ben Smith of The Politico reported Wednesday. The letters warn, “Should any of these organizations be found to be engaged in illegal or questionable activity, it is our intent to publicize your involvement with those activities.” What is not mentioned is that the originators of the letter, Howard Rich and his tax-exempt political group Americans for Limited Government, don’t actually release the names of their own donors and have a history of questionable activities.

In 2006 the Center’s Takings Initiatives Accountability Project examined the financial operations of Rich and his various political groups and bank accounts. After the investigation determined that Americans for Limited Government failed to comply with state charity laws, the Illinois attorney general forced the organization to move out of the state. The focus of the project was a series of ballot initiatives that would have radically altered land-use and zoning laws in six western states; ALG and Rich’s other tax-exempt entities were the largest donors to these efforts.

Meanwhile, Americans for Limited Government, of course, steadfastly refuses to identify its own political donors. The group’s website, at that time, defended its secrecy claiming that it is “funded by thousands of individuals from across the country,” but adding, “like many other groups, we respect the privacy of our donors, and do not discuss their finances with the press.”

For the record, the Center could find no evidence of “thousands of donors” but obtained the identities of the only two major donors to Americans for Limited Government in 2004, through a routine public records request. They were Donald Smith (no address given) and Niederhoffer Management LLC of Norwalk, Connecticut. In 2005 ALG reported it received 99 percent of its $5.4 million in contributions from just three donors.

So, correct us if we’re wrong, but PaperTrail’s takeaway is that the only donors deserving of privacy are those that donate to Rich’s organization?

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