A top European anti-corruption body wants the U.S. to increase transparency of political funding through outside groups that donate millions to support candidates, warning that they could be used to skirt long-established disclosure rules. The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption — known as Greco and which counts the U.S. as a member — warns “soft money” political financing vehicles appear to be increasing in America. The highly technical, 39-page report was approved by the Council of Europe’s plenary session last month, but was not previously made public. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report on Thursday. Greco officials then posted it online. (Links to the report: Theme I / Theme II)
The practical effect on the United States of the European report — seven months in the making and involving interviews with many U.S. parties — was likely to be limited: Council officials admit the American political system is often more transparent than on the European side of the Atlantic.
But it could also embolden campaign-watchdog groups in the United States who have asked federal regulators to clamp down on unfettered streams of money in elections — particularly cash used for so-called “social welfare groups” founded for political campaigns. They are classified as tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, known as 501(c) organizations under the tax code.