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CREW files complaints against two “dark money” groups that have benefitted Rauner

Wednesday, Jun 15, 2016

* Remember this story from early February of 2014?

A new spot that’s hitting TV and radio this week attacks three out of the four gubernatorial primary candidates, sparing only Winnetka venture capitalist Bruce Rauner.

A source with knowledge of the buy said the group — Mid-America Fund — spent roughly $180,000 on broadcast, cable, and radio for this week.

And they kept spending.

One of Mid-America Fund’s 2014 contributors was the Republican Governor’s Association, which claims to have recruited Rauner into the Illinois race.

* Here’s the 2014 ad

* Script…

More pay for them, higher taxes for you. That’s what career politicians do. Career politicians like Bill Brady, Dan Rutherford and Kirk Dillard. Together, they’ve spent over 60 years in Springfield. They voted to increase their own pay and supported millions in pork barrel spending. And to pay for it all, they stuck Illinois families with higher taxes. Call career politicians Brady, Rutherford and Dillard. Tell them we can’t afford high taxes and wasteful spending.

* Well, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed a complaint with the IRS about Mid-America Fund and nine other “dark money” groups. From its summary

[Mid-America Fund] acknowledged on its 2014 tax return that it spent $874,920 on political activity that year. MAF also spent hundreds of thousands of additional dollars on television and radio advertisements attacking three candidates for the Illinois Republican gubernatorial nomination weeks before the primary election. Those ads also were political, but MAF failed to report the spending as political activity. It is not clear exactly how much MAF spent on them, but estimates range from $244,600 to $705,000, which means political expenditures accounted for between 56% and 79% of MAF’s overall spending in 2014. As a result, politics appears to have been MAF’s primary activity. In addition, by failing to report its spending on the Illinois primary election as political activity, it appears MAF and its president, Dexter Vaughn, made false representations to the IRS. […]

It is unclear exactly how much MAF spent on the campaign, but the organization asserted on its tax return that it spent $705,000 for “production and media” to the company that purchased the broadcast television air time for the Illinois ads.

These groups can’t “primarily” be involved in campaign work, so if they spend more than half of their money on politics they can lose their not-for-profit status. Also, allegedly deceiving the IRS is kinda frowned upon. Mid-America Fund was dissolved in 2016, according to CREW.

* If you read the complaint, CREW acknowledges that these ads might be seen as non-political, but dismisses that contention by pointing to an IRS revenue ruling which takes into consideration a number of factors, including whether candidates are identified, whether the message approves or disapproves of the candidate, the proximity to the election, whether it makes reference to voting or an election, whether the issue distinguishes the candidates, whether it’s an ongoing series of communications, etc. It concludes

(T)he ads were not issue ads, but were intended to effect the election.

Including the Illinois ads push Mid-America Fund’s campaign percentage to at least 56 percent of its 2014 total, up to as much as 79 percent, according to CREW.

* This was an Ohio group, by the way. Another Ohio group, Jobs and Progress Fund, was also hit with a CREW complaint

JPF first made a name for itself in politics in early 2013 when it ran ads and sent mailers critical of then-Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), who was believed to be considering a run for Illinois governor

* Also, just so you know, CREW has been slammed for focusing their attacks and complaints on Republican interests.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Name/Nickname/Anon - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 2:17 pm:

    ==Also, just so you know, CREW has been slammed for focusing their attacks and complaints on Republican interests.==

    This slam comes from a conservative front group that fits the mold of the kind of group C.R.E.W. goes after. The fact that both sides are present doesn’t mean both sides are equally guilty. That kind of false equivalency is dangerous to holding people accountable.

  2. - Blue Bayou - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 2:19 pm:

    “CREW has been slammed…”

    Hmm, by whom I wonder?

  3. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 2:20 pm:

    Geez, they work at their own pace.

    No worries. Rauner assured the public he knew nothing about it and had nothing to do with it, just like the Schock spots.

    Some people probably believed him.

  4. - CharlieKratos - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 2:22 pm:

    “Affect the election”, not “effect the election”.

  5. - Norseman - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 2:27 pm:

    === Also, just so you know, CREW has been slammed for focusing their attacks and complaints on Republican interests. ===

    I don’t care. If the accusations are correct, then action is required. Don’t kid yourself. Dems are attacked by GOP front groups all the time. Abide by the rules and you have no problems!

  6. - Anon - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 2:30 pm:

    When you say slammed…you mean by a blog put up by one of the groups CREW complained about? If this were say, a legit news blog, I’d say OK, “slammed.”

  7. - Joe Cannon - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 2:37 pm:

    so when they attack GOP groups for targeting GOP candidates, does that make them biased or heroes?

  8. - Annonin' - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 2:44 pm:

    Shame on them for attackin’ GOPies. Forgettin’
    which $upper$tar was close to this one?

  9. - illini - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 2:46 pm:

    Norseman +1, and I don’t care either!

  10. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 2:52 pm:

    Frontline had a good episode a few years ago on these types of dark money groups. Completely out of control.

  11. - Joe Biden Was Here - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 3:09 pm:

    This group went after Clinton hard when he was president and I don’t think he was a Republican.

  12. - Huh? - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 3:13 pm:

    “CREW has been slammed for focusing their attacks and complaints on Republican interests.”

    Pot meet kettle.

  13. - Mama - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 3:17 pm:

    What goes around comes around.

  14. - Bryan - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 3:22 pm:

    “CREW acknowledges that these ads might be seen as non-political,”

    WUT? In what alternate universe is an ad that targets three sitting politicians in the run-up to a primary NOT political?

  15. - hisgirlfriday - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 3:22 pm:

    Meanwhile, House Republicans are censuring the IRS director (after earlier pushing impeachment) for the organization’s past feeble attempts to crack down on this sort of stuff so these groups will never be punished for breaking the law.

  16. - Anon221 - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 3:30 pm:

    Follow the money trail…

  17. - siriusly - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 3:57 pm:

    In what universe do these big money donors think that lack of transparency is a good thing?

    if you really believe you are advocating for good candidates, for good policies, put your name on those donations and let the public see who is paying for these ads

    Secrecy does not help. Candidates who accept un-named money and phantom contributions are just as responsible. Candidates who believe what they say should tell their supporters to disclose and publish.

  18. - Winnin' - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 4:39 pm:

    First we have Mrs Rauner’s group suing Bruce Rauner.

    Now we have as a potential defendant Sen. Bill Brady (aka Careerfella), who can’t seem to get enough face time shilling for his new governor.

    The irony is rich.

  19. - Winnin' - Wednesday, Jun 15, 16 @ 4:43 pm:

    One is left to wonder whether there will be Superstar fingerprints on the Rutherford fall from grace.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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