February 19, 2016

Rubio- and Fulop-Backing Super PACs Broke Law

In an effort to fight a new, illegal tactic used by super PACs and wealthy donors to circumvent campaign finance law, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the Marco Rubio-backing Conservative Solutions PAC, the Steven Fulop-backing Coalition for Progress, as well as a pair of sham companies used to launder donations to the super PACs.  The complaints also targeted the donors who attempted to hide their identities.

On October 26, 2015, Conservative Solutions PAC, which supports presidential candidate Marco Rubio, accepted a $500,000 donation from IGX LLC, a company with no known business activity whose CEO Andrew Duncan later admitted that he was the source of the donation and used IGX to hide that fact, an apparent violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA).  If Conservative Solutions PAC knew that the donation came from Duncan, it also likely violated FECA.

“Super PACs are allowed to accept and spend an unlimited amount of money, and all they have to do is say where that money came from,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder.  “Without this kind of disclosure, voters don’t have the information they need in order to know and evaluate who is giving huge sums of money to candidates for important offices.”

In a similar case, CREW also filed a complaint against DE First Holdings, which gave a $1,000,000 contribution to the super PAC Coalition for Progress, a New Jersey-based group reported to be supporting Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.  DE First Holdings was formed the day before making the donation; as it, like IGX LLC, has no known business activity, it is virtually impossible for that million dollars to have come from the company and not a hidden donor.

“If the FEC fails to act here, we may find ourselves in dangerous territory,” Bookbinder added.  “It would be open season for illegal donations to be funneled through bogus companies to get around election law.”

Noah Bookbinder Statement on 40th Anniversary of Buckley

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Noah Bookbinder released the following statment on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Buckley v. Valeo Read More ›

Complaint: Ernst-backing Koch Group Broke the Law

Trees of Liberty, a dark money non-profit financed and operated by the Koch political network, broke the law in helping Joni Ernst win her primary election in 2014, according to a complaint filed today with the IRS by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The complaint was also referred to the US Department of Justice to investigate potential civil and criminal penalties. Trees of Liberty was set up by veteran Koch network political operatives a few months after Ernst appeared at a Koch donor retreat, and started running ads in Iowa within a week of its creation. Despite spending almost all of its budget to attack Ernst's primary opponent, Mark Jacobs, the group claimed on its tax filings with the IRS that it did not engage in political activity in 2014. Making false statements on a signed form to the IRS was a criminal violation. Additionally, Trees of Liberty violated its tax-exempt status by engaging primarily in political activity for the private benefit of now-Sen. Joni Ernst and the Koch network, the complaint alleges. “Trees of Liberty appears to have violated the law the in three ways: the group misled the IRS by claiming it was not involved in political activity, engaged in more political activity than allowed and operated for the private interests of Sen. Ernst and the Koch political network,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “Any one of these violations should be enough for the IRS to act on; taken together, they overwhelmingly support the need for investigation and vigorous enforcement.” Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, often referred to as “the Koch brothers’ secret bank,” provided $400,000 of the $440,000 the group raised. The group then spent $412,000—an incredible 94% of its expenditures—on “advertising campaigns on television, radio and online,” most of which benefited Ernst. Over $346,000 of Trees of Liberty’s budget was paid to i360, a data analyst and ad buying firm described as the “Koch data mine.” "The Koch network is effectively a political party, and Trees of Liberty is operating to advance the Koch party's interests, rather than anything resembling 'social welfare,'" said Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy's General Counsel. "The evidence shows that the Koch network secretly used Trees of Liberty to play a decisive role in a primary election, but the American people may never get a full accounting of how much the Kochs are spending on primaries this presidential election year, or what they get in return." Read More ›

Noah Bookbinder Statement on Van Hollen v. FEC

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Noah Bookbinder released the following statement on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's decision against disclosure in Van Hollen V. FEC: Read More ›

CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder Calls for Executive Action

CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder Calls for Executive Action Read More ›

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