NPR NEWS AND CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS INVESTIGATE DRAMATIC RISE IN ANONYMOUS POLITICAL SPENDING BY SOCIAL WELFARE ORGANIZATIONS
Money Traded Among Multi-Layered, Tax-Exempt Networks Sidesteps IRS Regulations
Reports Today and Tomorrow on 'Morning Edition,' and at NPR.org
A joint investigation into the tax records of social welfare organizations by NPR and the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) tracks the dramatic rise in political spending by the groups, and the anonymous funds flowing among them. Since these tax-exempt 501(c)4s don't have to reveal their donors, or limit the amount they receive, they are becoming a vehicle of choice for big donors – a way to keep contributions private as they go into the political system. CRP has been tracking the flows of money among these groups for more than a year, uncovering more than $386 million in transfers involving more than 200 organizations from 2008 to 2012. Now, NPR and CRP dive into one of those networks, showing how the money flows from anonymous donors into state and federal elections.
NPR Power, Money and Influence correspondent Peter Overby, CRP editorial director Viveca Novak, and CRP political nonprofits investigator Robert Maguire share the findings of their investigation in a package of stories: a two-part report airing today and tomorrow on Morning Edition, and available now at NPR.org, and a detailed story on one of these groups, available now on OpenSecrets.org. Overby, Novak and Maguire report on the influence social welfare organizations yield on not just federal campaigns, but on a wide array of battles waged at the state and local levels, including judicial races. NPR and CRP found that, between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles, the spending by these groups on federal campaigns alone rose more than 80-fold.
The investigation spotlights expanding networks of social welfare organizations and their increasingly strategic political spending activities, with a deeper dive into one particular group that helps finance the activities of others. The growing activities of these tax-free networks are made possible partly by the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows outside groups to spend unlimited sums on elections. NPR and CRP examined how significant sums of money are moved around within networks of social welfare groups, effectively sidestepping IRS regulations that limit political activity by individual 501(c)(4) organizations and bypassing the public disclosure laws that apply to political committees.
Private donors have found in social welfare groups a more convenient, largely invisible, alternative to national party committees; a better way to quietly exert their own political clout, without limits.
The full investigation is at NPR.org, and available through the Center for Responsive Politics at http://www.opensecrets.org/.
A thriving media organization at the forefront of digital innovation, NPR creates and distributes award-winning news, information, and music programming to a network of 975 member stations. Through them, NPR programming reaches 27 million listeners every week, and nearly 23 million monthly on digital platforms. Visit npr.org to find local stations, listen to programs, music and stories, and learn more.
The Center for Responsive Politics is the nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the organization aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more transparent and responsive government. CRP pursues its mission largely through its award-winning website, OpenSecrets.org, which is the most comprehensive resource for federal campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis available anywhere. The Center's exclusive data powers other organizations and news outlets' online features tracking money in politics.
NPR Media Relations: Anna Christopher
Email: mediarelations (at) npr.org