Kim Barker wrote an eye-opening series on the ways in which anonymous Republican money is flooding into the presidential race through a legal loophole blessed by Congress and the FEC. Under regulations governing 501c4’s, you may collect unlimited amounts of gifts and funnel them to virtually anyone. Donors’ names are unreported, amounts are unrecorded. If you give through a company, it also gets to write it off as a business expense! There’s only one small catch. Your primary purpose has to be to “operate primarily for the promotion of social welfare,” which it defines as working for the “common good and general welfare of the people of the community.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition has its own such group, but it doesn’t give a fig for promoting social welfare. It’s promoting the welfare of the Republican Party and that’s not kosher according to IRS rules. The key is getting the IRS to act against this violation.
Barker writes about this charade:
Our examination shows that dozens of these groups do little or nothing to justify the subsidies they receive from taxpayers. Instead, they are pouring much of their resources, directly or indirectly, into political races at the local, state and federal level.
As Barker portrays it, the only goal this 501c4 promotes is the defeat of Barack Obama. I suppose if you’re a 1% fat-cat Jewish Republican then getting Romney elected is considered social welfare. That is, if you define doing the bidding of wealthy pro-Israel Jews as social welfare (for themselves).
The RJC makes no bones about the goal of its 501c4. There isn’t even a veneer of promoting a goal as lofty as “social welfare.” The only goal is politics and narrowly defined, single-interest politics at that. Though the group blithely lies about this as Barker implicitly notes:
The Republican Jewish Coalition, though formed in 1985, in many ways epitomizes the new breed of political-minded social welfare nonprofits.
Separately, the Republican Jewish Coalition told the FEC it spent more than $1.1 million on political ads, money that wasn’t reported to the IRS. Together, the grants and the political advertising made up almost 40 percent of the total expenditures of the group, which is chaired by GOP super donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
“Our efforts and our expenditures are well within our primary purpose test requirements,” Brooks said in an interview. “Everything we do is strictly within the legal guidelines.”
And I’ve got a bridge and some beach-front property in Florida to sell Brooks.
The RJC is raising $6.5 million in this endeavor, which may just be the start, since ProPublica finds that the RJC spent $12.4-million in 2010. That’s a far cry from the $1 or $2-million they’ve raised during past presidential races. As Matt Brooks tells it, they don’t care much who you are, how you earned your money, or even what currency it is:
“Contributions to the RJC are not reported,” Brooks told the people sitting around a horseshoe-shaped table. “We don’t make our donors’ names available. We can take corporate money, personal money, cash, shekels, whatever you got.”
I’m sure this tacit invitation to Israeli citizens to donate money to defeat Barack Obama was meant in jest. Otherwise, Brooks was encouraging people to violate campaign finance laws. It is still illegal for foreigners to donate to U.S. election campaigns, though one of the beauties of the permissive Supreme Court approach to campaign donations is that donors’ names aren’t publicized. That means the RJC could accept funds from Israeli citizens and expect that it could shield this illegality from public knowledge.
Barker in her story describes a fundraising pitch on behalf of the RJC which was offered at the New York law firm Weil Gottshal Manges. I believe in giving credit where it’s due. If the firm wants to elect a Republican president and encourage violation of IRS regulations, let them be known and named and shamed.
As of recently, 501c4’s had spent $71-million. But hey, the night, and the race are young. Those Republican megawards are just gettin’ started.