You couldn’t devise a better political hit-and-run. In the summer of 2010, an unknown group called the Commission on Hope, Growth, and Opportunity asked (PDF) the Internal Revenue Service to grant it 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. The organization told the IRS it didn’t plan to spend a penny on politics. Once the IRS gave CHGO the green light, however, the group plunged into the 2010 political season. It would ultimately raise $4.8 million—$4 million of that from a single anonymous donor—and spend $2.3 million on TV ads attacking 11 House Democrats running for reelection. (Ten of them lost.) Later, on its 2010 and 2011 tax returns, CHGO claimed it hadn’t spent money on politics. Watchdogs filed complaints against CHGO alleging it had flouted tax and election laws. But sometime in 2011, after the Republicans’ 2010 “shellacking,” CHGO quietly disappeared. The group, and the anonymous individuals behind it, has yet to face any punishment.
The tale is a familiar one in the campaign finance world, illustrating the slow-moving, scattershot nature of justice when it comes to political money. The Federal Election Commission, the nation’s top election cop, is gridlocked by ideological differences. The IRS, whose role includes policing nonprofits, moves at a glacial pace, and traditionally investigates a small sliver of groups under its watch. This lawlessness is even more relevant, say watchdog groups, in the aftermath of Citizens United and other key court decisions, which led to a surge in spending by super-PACs and dark-money nonprofits.
With more money and more outside groups playing in politics than ever before, watchdogs say federal regulators need to wake up and take action—fast. “What is the point of having laws on the books if they are not enforced?” says Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “With the November elections only five months away, these agencies need to act now to make sure this election isn’t a repeat of the ‘anything goes’ mentality of 2010.”
Full Article: Dark Money Groups Gone Wild | Mother Jones.