Outside spending by 501(c) organizations continues to break records in the 2016 presidential election, totaling about three times more than at a comparable point in the record-setting 2012 elections. For the first time, nine presidential candidates had the exclusive backing of at least one politically active 501(c) nonprofit group that can accept unlimited, undisclosed donations.
On April 22, 2016, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) introduced a bill to change what these organizations are required to report to the IRS. The proposed legislation, H.R. 5053, would amend the Internal Revenue Code to eliminate the requirement for 501(c) tax-exempt organizations to report the amount of any contribution or the name and address of significant contributors to the IRS in their annual tax returns. The House will vote on the bill today.
The Center for Responsive Politics signed onto a coalition letter by pro-transparency groups to members of the House of Representatives calling for members to oppose H.R. 5053.
Most of what we know about spending by Dark Money groups in elections is gathered from their annual Form 990 tax forms. The IRS intended the information on Schedule B to be used to determine "whether or not the people who make large contributions have undue influence over the operation of the organization."
As CRP tracks the complex networks of political spending by 501(c) organizations, the contribution amounts reported on Schedule B are extremely important in helping us connect the dots in complex networks of politically active nonprofits. It is the only section of a 990 filing that CRP can use to reveal whether a group claiming grassroots support is funded almost entirely by a single donation of millions or to lend credibility to claims by some groups that they are backed by lots of small donors. The disclosure of donors' names to the IRS is an important check on illegal foreign donations to influence U.S. elections.
As an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, CRP does not advocate for specific legislation or regulations in any area -- with one key exception: transparency. Eliminating the existing requirement that donations to 501(c) organizations be reported to the IRS would thwart efforts to shine a light on undisclosed political campaign donations and further open the door for such money to go unchecked.
To add your voice to those opposing the Roskam provision, head over to CRP's Action Center to generate a letter to your members of Congress and help us continue following the money.