Thurs 7/26: Stop the dark money invasion!

(Quote by Fred Wertheimer, watchdog group Democracy 21)

On July 16th, the Trump administration handed our elections over to right-wing extremists and foreign countries.

“This is the swampiest, darkest, dirtiest decision.We need more transparency in our campaigns, not less.” – Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana)

What they did:

  • The IRS is done being a watchdog: The U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that the IRS will no longer require certain tax-exempt organizations, including politically active nonprofit groups ((501(c) (4)s), to identify their “substantial contributors” of gifts over $5000 to U.S. tax authorities. Groups such as Planned Parenthood. Or the NRA. Or “Americans for Prosperity“, a Koch brothers advocacy group. Or  “America First Policies“, a Trump-booster that spells better than he does.
  • They turned on the spigots for dark money: Touted as a move to bolster privacy and lessen administrative burdens for these groups, the main focus is to hide the identities of “dark money” donors to politically active groups. Like the possibility that Russia contributed substantial monetary support to the NRA prior to the 2016 election. This rule will limit the agency’s ability to detect illegal political contributions by foreign nationals. It’s legal for foreign nationals to donate to nonprofits, though federal election law bars them from spending money to influence American elections.
  • They messed with states’ rights: This change will undermine a state’s ability to regulate nonprofits and would make it harder to police illegal spending in political campaigns. By law, the identities of “substantial contributers” is open to inspection by state tax authorities for the purpose of administering state tax laws. “Rather than simply requiring 501c4 groups to file copies of their Form 990 Schedule B list of contributors with state regulators, the states will now have to devise their own reporting forms and requirements, promulgate administrative rules and/or authorizing legislation, and prepare to withstand court challenges from objecting groups. This adds time and expense to an already difficult effort to identify the sources and extent of dark money in state-level political campaigns.”
  • They violated the law:  Some of us noticed that there was no docket to comment on this rule change. Mnuchin and his backers have run right over the “Administrative Procedure Act”, which has been the basis for other suits charging the Trump administration with improper or capricious rule making. Not only was there supposed to be public comment on an substantive rule change, but Mnuchin was required to provide a “reasoned analysis” proving no side effects, (like messing with state laws) before he and his friends did what they wanted.

Action #1 – Federal actions – Fight back with these DISCLOSE Bills

There are two DISCLOSE bill numbers per chamber:
House Rep versions: H.R.1134 & H.R.6239
Senate versions: S.1585 & S3150
These acts requires organizations spending money in elections – including super PACs and certain nonprofit groups – to disclose promptly donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle.  The bill prevents political operatives from using layers of shell corporations and front groups to hide donor identities and features a “stand by your ad” provision requiring corporations, unions, and other organizations to identify those behind political ads – including disclosing an organization’s top five funders at the end of television ads. The DISCLOSE Act would also prohibit domestic corporations with significant foreign control, ownership, or direction from spending money in U.S. elections.

Minimal Script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want to thank Rep./Sen.. [___] for  cosponsoring the [Rep – H.R.1134  & H.R.6239 / Sen. – S.1585 & S3150] Disclose Acts of 2018 and for doing whatever is necessary to stop dark money from corrupting our elections.

Check  H.R.1134 and for H.R.6239 to see if your rep is a cosponsor. (Brownley and Carbajal are cosponsors of both House bills.)

Check  S1585 and here for S3150 to see if your senators are cosponsors. (Feinstein and Harris are cosponsors of both Senate bills.)

Rep. Julia Brownley: email (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal: email (CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Senator Feinstein: email DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: email DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Other Contacts:

Action #2 – H.R.1615 – Get Foreign Money Out of U.S. Elections Act

This bill amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) to ban campaign contributions and expenditures by corporations that are controlled, influenced, or owned by foreign nationals.

Minimal Script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want to thank Rep. [___] for  cosponsoring H.R. 1615 – Get Foreign Money Out of U.S. Elections Act.

Rep. Julia Brownley: email (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal: email (CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Other Contacts:

Action #3 – The states are going to have to fight back too.

Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock response to this bit of backroom criminality is to sue them. He had previously created an executive order forcing state contractors to follow strict disclosure of previously non-public corporate political donations.

Just last year, CA passed AB 249 – DISCLOSE ACT, which requires the largest funders of political advertising to reveal names of actual donors, not just organization names.

Several states, including New York and California, require certain 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations to register as charitable organizations with the state and file detailed reports that include unredacted versions of the Form 990 donor list. Once this new IRS policy becomes effective, the Form 990s submitted by 501(c)(4) organizations in these states will no longer contain the names and addresses of donors.

Minimal Script for State Attorney Generals: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want  State Attorney General  [___] to join in the Montana’s lawsuit against the IRS for dropping their disclosure requirements. This adds expense to each state, violates US law (26 U.S. Code § 6103) regarding information due to states, as well as the “Administrative Procedure Act”.

Xavier Becerra: email, (916) 445-9555
Not my Attorney General?:


  • Montana Governor Sues IRS warning of “Foreign Money” in Elections (NYTimes)
  • Montana vs. the Koch Brothers (slate)
  • IRS won’t require NRA, other groups to disclose donors to tax officials. (USAToday)
  • Depth of Russian politicians cultivation of NRA ties revealed. (WBUR)
  • Something stinks about the NRA’s Russia story (the week)
  • The changing story between the NRA and Russia (BrennanCenter)
  • Treasury Eliminates Donor Information Disclosures by 501(c)(4) organizations (nonprofit law)
  • Rev. Proc. 2018-38
  • I.R.S. Will No Longer Force Kochs and Other Groups to Disclose Donors (NY Times)
  • ‘Dark money’ groups don’t need to disclose donors to IRS, Treasury says (Washington Post)
  • Treasury defends move to halt nonprofit disclosures amid Wyden threat (Politico)
  • The government is making it easier for “dark money” donors to go unnamed (Vox)
  • Treasury Weakens Donor Disclosure Requirements for Some Nonprofits (Nonprofit Quarterly)
  • Trump just made it easier for groups like the NRA to hide dark money donors. The timing couldn’t be worse. (NBC)





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