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.