Dark Money Disclosure: 990 Tax Returns
One of the main sources of information about the dark money groups spending hundreds of millions in elections are their tax returns. Due to the IRS’s routine grants of 6 months of extensions, most of the tax returns covering 2012 are only due November 15, 2013 – more than a year after the 2012 election.
CREW is gathering many of the tax returns, and will post them, other documents, and links to news reports about this important information on this page.
American Action Network
American Action Network (AAN) filed its tax return in May, telling the Internal Revenue Service it spent $1.2 million on political campaign activity. The return covers only part of the 2012 election cycle, from July 1, 2011 until June 30, 2012, so the full picture of AAN’s revenues and spending is not yet clear. AAN reported to the Federal Election Commission spending nearly $11.7 million on federal elections during the 2012 cycle.
Open Secrets reported American Action Network received a $1.5 million grant from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in 2012, and another $250,000 from the American Petroleum Institute. PhRMA also gave AAN $4.5 million in 2011.
American Commitment spent approximately $11.5 million on all its activities in 2012, more than 50 times the group’s spending in 2011, its first year in business. It told the Internal Revenue Service it spent $1.86 million on politics in 2012, the same amount it reported to the Federal Election Commission. American Commitment reported raising $11.7 million, nearly all of which came from two large contributors – Freedom Partners, the Koch brothers-linked group, gave $6.26 million, and an unknown donor gave $4.77 million.
Previous reporting on American Commitment by the Center for Responsive Politics has raised questions about the group’s relationship with other groups using the same name that have appeared and disappeared, and whether all the money given to those groups has been accounted for.
American Energy Alliance
The Center for Responsive Politics posted a tax return for the American Energy Alliance, which spent more than $7 million on all its activities in 2012. As the Center for Public Integrity reports here, American Energy Alliance told the Internal Revenue Service it spent no money on politics in 2012, even though it spent $1.36 million on “electioneering communications” – ads that run close to an election and mentioned a candidate – according to reports it filed with the Federal Election Commission. The group received $1.46 million in 2012 from Freedom Partners.
Americans for Job Security
Americans for Job Security (AJS) filed its tax return in September, telling the IRS it spent $15.7 million on elections involving candidates through October 31, 2013, the end of its fiscal year. AJS also gave a $24.5 million grant to the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a Koch brothers-linked organization that funneled most of the money to other groups. It ultimately was spent on two California ballot initiatives.
While most tax-exempt groups do not need to disclose their donors to the public, they are required to tell the IRS who contributed more than $5,000, and make the amounts contributed public. AJS avoids even this very limited disclosure by claiming all of its financial backers are members who pay dues.
Americans for Prosperity
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) spent more than $122 million on all its activities in 2012, and told the IRS it spent $33.5 million on political activities. AFP, however, reported to the Federal Election Commission spending $36.4 million on campaign activities. Like several other groups, AFP left off its tax return spending on electioneering communications as well as any political spending it did in state elections.
Nearly 78 percent of AFP’s donations were for $1 million or more, comparable to Crossroads GPS’s 83 percent. The three largest were $26 million, $21 million, and $11.5 million, and donations from Freedom Partners accounted for at least 28 percent of AFP’s money in 2012.
Americans for Tax Reform
Americans for Tax Reform reported to the FEC it spent $15.8 million on independent expenditures, but told the IRS it only spent $9.8 million political activity. The discrepancy is significant because that $15.8 million would be more than half of its total expenditures for 2012.
Center Forward spent nearly $5.7 million on all its activities in 2012, more than 14 times the $364,845 it reported spending in 2011. Center Forward told the Internal Revenue Service it spent $2.2 million on politics in 2012, slightly more than the $2.1 million it reported to the Federal Election Commission. Two contributions—one for $1.525 million and one for $810,000—together made up more than 60 percent of its total contributions.
Club for Growth
The 501(c)(4) arm of Club for Growth filed its tax return in October, telling the Internal Revenue Service it spent $416,214 on political campaign activity. The return covers the period from July 1, 2012 until June 30, 2012. Most of the Club for Growth’s political spending came through its super PAC, which reported to the Federal Election Commission spending nearly $16.6 million on federal elections during the 2012 campaign cycle.
Crossroads GPS’s tax return shows it spent more than $74 million, nearly 39 percent of its total spending of $188.9 million, on political activity in 2012. This figure does not include the tens of millions of dollars Crossroads GPS spent on issue ads in the spring and summer of 2012.
Of the nearly $180 million Crossroads GPS raised in 2012, 83 percent came in donations of $1 million or more. The three largest - $22.5 million, $18 million, and $10 million – accounted for 28 percent of its funding.
Crossroads GPS made several large grants to other tax-exempt organizations, the largest a $26.4 million contribution to Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). Crossroads GPS said on its tax return it tells grantees the money cannot be used for political expenditures, but ATR spent more than half of its $30.9 million budget on political activity, meaning it used a significant amount of the grant on politics.
Separately, the Open Secrets Blog found two trade associations reported giving Crossroads GPS grants. The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care gave $500,000, and the AGC Public Awareness and Advocacy Fund contributed $100,000.
League of Conservation Voters
The section 501(c)(4 ) arm of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) reported to the IRS spending $14.7 million on political activities in 2012, and told the Federal Election Commission it spent $11.1 million on federal elections. LCV spent $35.6 million for all its activities, including $13.6 million in grants to other groups, some of which are politically active.
Patriot Majority USA
Patriot Majority USA reported spending $23.7 million on all its activities in 2012, roughly 46 times the roughly $515,000 it reported spending in 2011. Patriot Majority USA told the Internal Revenue Service it spent approximately $9.3 million on politics in 2012, more than the $7 million it reported to the Federal Election Commission. Patriot Majority USA reported raising $23 million in contributions, more than a quarter of which came from a single contributor who gave $6 million.
Priorities USA, the sister nonprofit to one of the largest liberal super PAC groups, reported raising nearly $8.4 million in 2012, and spending nearly $8.7 million, according to tax filings posted by the Center for Public Integrity. Priorities USA reported spending no money on politics. Its super PAC, however, spent more than $65 million during the 2012 election cycle. The group reported roughly 60 percent of its contributions from four donors, one who gave $2 million and three other contributors who gave $1 million each.
As the Center for Public Integrity reported, Priorities USA reported giving away nearly $5 million in grants to other nonprofits. The largest grant, $2.25 million, went to Planned Parenthood. Priorities USA gave $650,000 to the 501(c)(4) arm of the League of Conservation Voters. That group spent more than $10.8 million on political activity during the 2012 election cycle, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Republican Jewish Coalition
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) spent approximately $10 million on all its activities in 2012, more than triple the group’s 2011 spending but down more than 19 percent from 2010. RJC told the Internal Revenue Service it spent $4.36 million on politics, slightly less than the roughly $4.6 million it reported to the Federal Election Commission.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more than $207 million on all its activities in 2012, an increase of more than 38 percent of the roughly $150 million it spent in 2008, the last presidential election year. The Chamber told the Internal Revenue Service it spent approximately $53.8 million on politics, more than the $35.7 million in spending on federal elections it reported to the Federal Election Commission.