The latest television ad touting GOP presidential contender Marco Rubio proclaims that he is “leading the fight” to stop President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. “Lessons of history are that evil is either confronted and defeated, or it grows,” Rubio says sternly, standing in front of a giant American flag. But the new spot, which hits the airwaves Wednesday, is not the work of his official campaign or even his allied super PAC. It was paid for by the Conservative Solutions Project, part of a crop of politically active nonprofit groups that are taking on new prominence in the 2016 elections.
These tax-exempt groups — which can keep their donors secret even as they sponsor hard-hitting ads — are being increasingly embraced by campaign operatives looking for new ways to influence the political environment.
Although such “social welfare” organizations are not supposed to be primarily focused on elections, they face little oversight from a deadlocked Federal Election Commission or the Internal Revenue Service, whose effort to issue new rules governing their political activity has stalled.