One Republican group has reserved $6 million in television advertising time for the fall election season to help more than a dozen House GOP candidates, and about half the money will come from the nonprofit side of the organization that is not required to disclose its donors. The Congressional Leadership Fund and its nonprofit affiliate, the American Action Network, reserved the ad time in seven key media markets — which will also be likely battlegrounds for the presidential race — as a down payment for what is expected to be a much larger fall campaign to promote House Republicans. The move comes as congressional Democrats step up their criticism of nonprofit groups that shield their donors and that are playing an increasingly prominent role in House and Senate races. On Monday evening, Senate Republicans blocked consideration of a Democratic bill that would require those nonprofits to disclose the donors of every contribution of at least $10,000 that is used for political purposes. The DISCLOSE Act, as the proposal is known, failed on a vote of 51 to 44, falling short of the 60 votes needed to proceed to a full debate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had tried, and failed, earlier to require nonprofits to reveal their donors after a 2010 Supreme Court ruling allowed corporations, unions and other special interests to spend money directly advocating individual candidates in elections.
That ruling prompted the creation of super PACs, political action committees that have collected six- and seven-figure checks from the wealthiest donors to push candidates in the presidential and congressional elections. For instance, one super PAC that supported former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s failed bid for the GOP presidential nomination took in $21 million from the Adelson family of Las Vegas. All donations to super PACs must be disclosed. But most of these PACs also have an arm that is formed under the 501c(4) section of the tax code, which allows for a slightly less aggressive political posture and does not require donations to be revealed.