The IRS should investigate Coalition for a Safe Secure America after it failed to properly disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on political activity in 2018, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Coalition for a Safe Secure America falsely represented that it did not engage in any political activity on its 2018 tax return.
In the days leading up to the 2018 election, Coalition for a Safe Secure America spent more than $200,000 on Facebook ads targeting Republican and Independent state and federal candidates in at least four states using five different page names. The group specifically went after candidates running for office in Indiana, Missouri, Montana and Oregon, including: then-Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who was then a candidate for the U.S. Senate; U.S. Senator Mike Braun, a Republican who had previously resigned from his state House seat to focus on his run for the U.S. Senate in Indiana; former state Representative Knute Buehler, a Republican candidate for governor in Oregon; and then-state Auditor Matt Rosendale, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Montana. The Facebook ads appeared to have been run and managed by Coalition for a Safe Secure America. However, Coalition for a Safe Secure America reported that it did not engage in any political activities and failed to disclose any activity on the IRS form used to report political expenditures.
“Coalition for a Safe Secure America appears to have falsely told the IRS they were not involved in politics. Dark money groups too often bypass the law in their efforts to secretly and improperly influence who is elected,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “We urge the IRS to open an investigation into Coalition for a Safe Secure America and take swift and appropriate action for any potential violations.”
Coalition for a Safe Secure America may have failed to report even more political activity than just the Facebook ads. On its 2018 tax return, the group also reported spending more than $2 million on direct mail in 2018 and paid the political consulting firm Greenlight Media Strategies for its services, which includes a “persuasion- and-turnout focused direct mail” program. News reports connected the Coalition for a Safe Secure America to anonymous mailers targeting some of the same candidates and focusing on some of the same issues as the Facebook ads. Additionally, Facebook video ads appeared to have the same messaging and stock images as mailers that had circulated in Missouri.
“The law is clear: nonprofit groups still must report their political activity to the IRS,” said Bookbinder. “Dark money groups unfairly interfering in our electoral systems threatens to undermine Americans’ faith in our elections. It’s time for the IRS to step up its enforcement of these laws and hold these dark money groups accountable.”