Federal Politics

Published — October 20, 2015 Updated — Today at 1:11 pm EST

IRS petitioned to punish politically active nonprofit

Watchdog cites Center for Public Integrity report in complaint against Carolina Rising

Introduction

Political watchdog group Citizens for Responsbility and Ethics in Washington wants the Internal Revenue Service to punish a nonprofit group that spent millions of dollars on advertisements boosting Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., ahead of his election victory last year.

The IRS complaint follows a Center for Public Integrity investigation into Carolina Rising’s political activities, which CREW cites several times.

Carolina Rising provided “a vehicle for donors to make unlimited secret contributions to benefit candidates, and that is not permitted under the law,” the organization’s Executive Director Noah Bookbinder argues. “While the public is kept in the dark, the candidate or official almost certainly knows who made the often-large contributions.”

In the complaint, Bookbinder asks the IRS to consider stripping Carolina Rising of its nonprofit status, hitting the group with excise taxes and treating it as a taxable corporation or political group.

But CREW faces major headwinds: The IRS has shown little interest in pursuing politically active nonprofits, particularly in the aftermath of a 2013 scandal in which staffers singled out conservative groups for enhanced scrutiny.

In North Carolina’s bitterly fought U.S. Senate contest last year, Carolina Rising ran nearly 4,000 TV ads.

In August 2014 alone, it ran more ads than either then-Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democratic candidate, or Tillis, her Republican challenger who ultimately won the seat.

Carolina Rising, a nonprofit “social welfare” group organized under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the tax code, doesn’t reveal its donors. Dallas Woodhouse, the group’s founder and president, said it spent roughly $4.7 million on the ads, which praised Tillis.

Woodhouse, who last month was chosen to lead the North Carolina Republican Party, could not immediately be reached for comment.

But last year, he insisted Carolina Rising’s ads weren’t political.

“Those are issue ads. Those are not political ads,” Woodhouse told the Center for Public Integrity after the election.

The legal distinction between issue ads and political ads is important because nonprofits such as Carolina Rising can’t, by law, make politics the primary purpose for their existence.

Under federal law, issue ads, known as “electioneering communications,” name a candidate and run during a certain time frame. But they don’t overtly direct voters to vote for or against a candidate even if the ads might substantially help or hurt a candidate in the same way a straight-up political ad could.

Issue ads don’t generally count as “political activity” under IRS rules, and therefore, nonprofit groups sponsoring the ads aren’t required to disclose information about their cost or production like a political committee must.

CREW describes itself as “dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests.”

It has pursued both Democrats and Republicans in the past, although last year, liberal political activist and top Hillary Clinton supporter David Brock became the group’s chairman after an internal shakeup.

On Tuesday, the group also filed a complaint with the IRS against Conservative Solutions Project, Inc., a “social welfare” nonprofit that’s supporting the presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

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.

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