From Open Secrets:
Even with a tax status that says “social welfare group,” a nonprofit organization’s spending record can still reveal plenty of political activity.
Sometimes too much. Ten politically active nonprofits are the subject of new civil complaints filed with the IRS by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning watchdog group based in D.C. and run by Hillary Clinton ally David Brock. All 10 are 501(c)(4) organizations, a tax designation for “social welfare” nonprofits that aren’t required to disclose their donors. And all 10, according to the complaints, either violated rules that bar (c)(4) groups from devoting more than 50 percent of their resources to political activity or otherwise lied to the IRS about their political spending.
Nine of the 10 groups used their political spending to support Republican candidates in races for governorships, Senate seats and other offices. CREW also filed criminal complaints accusing six of the 10, calling on the FBI and Department of Justice to investigate whether the groups lied to the IRS.
Uncovering this duplicitous behavior can be difficult, noted Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. Nonprofits are not required to file their Form 990s — their tax paperwork — until long after the spending in question has occurred. And with lax enforcement by the government and hazy definitions in the law, many groups appear to push the envelope when it comes to trying to influence elections.
“The whole reason we’ve seen an explosion of use and abuse of 501(c)(4) organizations is that they…