Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shining a Light on Dark Money in the 2012 Campaign Cycle

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 4:00 PM

The Center for Responsive Politics tries to untangle the web of campaign dollars related to Arizona's Center to Protect Patients Rights, which doled out $23.2 million dollars last year. The CPPR brought in more than $25 million from donors whose identities are shielded because the group is technically a nonprofit, not a political committee.

From the report:

All but one of CPPR's recipient groups are 501(c)(4) organizations under the tax code. Such groups are defined as "social welfare" organizations and aren't supposed to be primarily political. Many, however, laid out millions in the 2012 election cycle for various types of outside spending, freed to do so in part by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.

The fact that the organizations don't have to disclose the names of their donors made them attractive repositories for contributions from individuals and corporations wanting to have an impact on the elections without having their roles known.

Among other groups given grants by CPPR, Free Enterprise America, which received the largest amount at $3.6 million, is also the most mysterious recipient. It doesn't appear to have a website, and little is known about it. Its address in Phoenix, however, is the same as that of DC London, a political consulting firm.

And another group, American Commitment, received a grant of $1.6 million from CPPR and paid out nearly $1.9 million in outside spending in 2012, much of it to support Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in his bid for an open Senate seat. Flake prevailed, getting about 50 percent of the vote. American Commitment's address in Washington is shared with a consulting firm called DC London.

DC London is run by Sean Noble, who happens to be on American Commitment's board — and is also the president and executive director of CPPR. In fact, DC London and another Noble consulting firm, Noble & Associates, were paid a total of $3.1 million by CPPR in 2011, far outstripping the $340,000 that Noble & Associates was paid by the group in 2010. (DC London received no payments from CPPR in 2010.)

Noble is tied to the Koch brothers. He spoke at a 2010 meeting of wealthy conservatives that they sponsored, making a presentation with the head of Americans for Prosperity, a group co-founded by David Koch to which CPPR has also given money. A former policy strategist for AFP now heads CPPR grantee American Commitment.

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