AUBURN, AL- There is a reason 501c4 organizations exist, and we do not want to paint all with a broad brush. In a pluralistic society, it is natural that organizations that speak to specific issues would exist, and it is understandable why some donors would value both the anonymity and unlimited capacity that the entities can offer.
It is not hard to imagine why, given the intense feelings on either side of the abortion debate, a pro-choicer would want to give to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund or a pro-lifer would open their checkbook for the Susan B. Anthony List. The ability to impact, politically, an issue of personal importance without showing up on a donor list and potentially alienating friends, neighbors, and co-workers is appealing.
But, other such organizations are, justifiably, raising more eyebrows.
You may have seen ads from an organization called America First Policies. Many of the ads have the feel of a campaign promotional for Donald Trump, such as this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHJXGG_rvZA. Others are aimed at accomplishing Trump priorities, including confirming his nominees.
America First Policies borrows a phrase from Donald Trump, features the president on its website (https://www.americafirstpolicies.org/), and is run by his associates. Very clearly, the organization operates as an auxiliary branch of the Trump campaign except with a complete lack of transparency and wide open for big money.
Now, we don’t want to pick on America First or President Trump. They are far from alone. Disgraced ex-Governor Greitens (Missouri) generated controversy with a similar 501c4. Bernie Sanders, despite his talk against dark money, also operates one (https://ourrevolution.com/). Barack Obama had Organizing for Action, though that group did voluntarily disclose donors. Numerous other politicians, including Gov. Cuomo, have taken advantage of this loophole as well.
With this problem afflicting elected officials from both parties and in an array of positions, it is time for action.
We believe that any “non-profit” should be required to disclose donors if it is: 1) affiliated with a singular person or group agenda, 2) is operated by individuals associated with that person or group, and/or 3) spends money on advertising aimed to promote an individual or group more than a year away from an election.
An article interesting article from the Brennan Center on this topic can be found here: https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/how-politicians-use-nonprofits-hide-dark-money.
What do you think? Do you agree this is a problem? Does our proposed solution address the issue? Is it too much? Not enough? Join the conversation at: https://www.facebook.com/takebackorg/.