Democratic-Linked Groups Mount Ad Offensive
WASHINGTON - 501(c)(4) - it's the most potent little algorithm in politics right now.The solution which will be proposed is more restriction on free speech, not less. Once the government starts meddling with the Constitution it is necessary to keep doing so. What should happen, but won't, is a complete repeal of CFR coupled with a requirement for immediate public disclosure of all donations.
A 501(c)(4) is the Internal Revenue Service term for a tax-exempt organization "primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community."
However one might define "the common good," the IRS allows such groups to take part in campaigns opposing or supporting candidates, as long as such electioneering is not the group's primary activity.
IRS guidelines suggest that as long as the group does not target voters in a candidate's state or district with ads shortly before an election, and as long as it has been running a series of "issue ads" outside of election season, then its tax status is safe.
One alluring feature of using these tax-exempt groups is that - unlike campaign committees - the donations to a 501(c)(4) are anonymous and unlimited in amount.
A single donor could, under cover of the 501(c)(4)'s anonymity, give $20 million or $200 million to pay for political ads.