Nonprofits, now emboldened to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on with no disclosure this election cycle, are beginning to face complaints at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC). While most of these complaints have come from campaign finance reform groups, a veterans organization is jumping into the fray.
On Monday, the Veterans' Alliance for Security and Democracy (VetPAC) filed an FEC complaint against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the FEC, alleging that the organization's potential use of foreign funds for political purposes represents a "clear and present danger to our democracy." From the letter to the FEC, obtained by The Huffington Post:
We understand that organizations may have "a reasonable accounting method" to separate funds into their general operations budget. However, the prohibition on foreign nationals indirectly contributing to U.S. elections should require additional scrutiny in the case of organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where even segregated funds within their general operating budget could be said to indirectly finance their campaign work, given the volume of such activity as a percentage of their overall expenditures. [...]
Given the unseemly amounts of funds being poured into campaigns, we ask that you move expeditiously to require full disclosure of the funding sources of the U.S. Chamer of Commerce. Their actions present a clear and present danger to our democracy by shielding the electorate from the identities of foreign influences that are lurking behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's massive campaign spending.
"Our military veterans, who served to protect the Constitution of the United States, are concerned that foreign money could be used to influence our policies and buy seats in the House and Senate," said Lorin Walker, VetPAC vice president and treasurer. "The Chamber's actions compromise the very rights for which our military men and women put their lives on the line.
The letter is in response to a report by ThinkProgress, which raised questions about whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is using foreign money to fund its political activities.
"As we've said before, the U.S. Chamber fully complies with all applicable laws and regulations," said Bruce Josten, executive vice president of Government Affairs for the Chamber, in a statement to The Huffington Post. "These baseless attacks on a pro-business group like the Chamber is an attempt to distract Americans from a failed economic agenda just two weeks before Election Day. It's time to return to the discussion that Americans care most about: creating jobs. We're going to stay focused on representing and advocating for an agenda of economic growth and speaking out against policies that are counter to those objectives."
As The Huffington Post reported earlier, just because a group files a complaint with the FEC doesn't mean it will necessarily go anywhere. It faces a complicated process that could take years to complete -- if it even gets past the first-round vote by a group of commissioners who often deadlock on major decisions.