March 6, 2019
A pro-Trump nonprofit organization called the 45Committee raised nearly half of its funding during its 2017 tax year from a single donor who gave the group $6 million, according to a new tax return obtained by CREW. Overall, three anonymous donors who wrote checks of $2 million or more provided nearly 90 percent of the group’s more than $13 million haul.
The dark money group’s revenue dropped significantly from its 2016 tax year, which covered the end of the 2016 election, when the group raised more than $46 million and acknowledged spending $21.6 million on political activity, largely in support of President Trump’s election. On the new tax return, which runs from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, 45Committee disclosed that it spent more than $1.7 million influencing elections, which accounts for 13 percent of the group’s total spending.
It is unclear exactly where all of the political spending 45Committee acknowledged was focused. The group reported spending $1.7 million directly on “political advertising production and research” and contributing $75,000 to another organization for political activity, though the recipient of the political grant is not identified.
According to the Federal Election Commission, however, 45Committee only reported spending $935,210 on independent expenditures during the period covered by the return, which were targeted in two special congressional elections. A search of FollowTheMoney.org, which aggregates state-level political spending data, for independent spending by 45Committee does not reveal any additional state spending. The organization also did not contribute to any federal super PACs during its 2017 tax year nor any political groups that report to the IRS, which are known as 527 organizations, according to a search of records.
It’s possible that some of the $441,000 that 45Committee contributed to other nonprofit organizations funded political activity, though 45Committee described all of its grants as intended “to further the organization’s exempt purpose.” Three of the recipients of 45Committee’s grants — the Jack Kemp Foundation, the Tax Foundation, and the Arizona State University Foundation — are charitable organizations that are barred from participating in campaign activities. But the two other recipients of 45Committee’s grants, Citizens for a Sound Government and Winning for Women, Inc, are 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations that are allowed to engage in some political activity, and both have records of doing so.
45Committee gave $35,000 to Citizens for a Sound Government, a social welfare nonprofit that contributed $400,000 to a super PAC in 2016 and spent another $412,974 that year on an electioneering communication advertisement praising Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). Winning for Women, Inc., which received $250,000 from 45Committee, is a nonprofit that aims to create “an infrastructure that will allow right-of-center women leaders to succeed in their pursuit of leadership opportunities.” The group, which has a connected federal PAC, also spent $85,598 on independent expenditures and $691,485 on electioneering communications in 2018.
45Committee also devoted the vast majority of its spending between April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, more than $10 million, on what it called “issue ads and media.” Most of that money was likely spent on ads promoting the successful effort by President Trump and Republicans in Congress to pass tax cut legislation. 45Committee announced in November 2017 that it would spend at least $10 million backing the effort.
The three donors who cut seven-figure checks to 45Committee collectively gave the group $11,450,000, which means their contributions could have completely funded the group’s efforts to influence congressional passage of a tax cut that significantly benefited the wealthiest people in America. Presumably, those three donors, whoever they may be, are pleased with the tax breaks their multi-million dollar contributions helped enact.