The Democratic and Republican governors’ associations are increasingly relying on nonprofit affiliates to get their candidates elected and influence ballot initiatives, a move that allows them to avoid disclosing the identity of their donors.
The Washington, D.C.,-based Republican Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association are the most prolific outside spending groups in state-level elections, but as so-called 527 political organizations, they are required to make their donors public.
Their nonprofit affiliates, however, are not.
The RGA’s Republican Governors Association Public Policy Committee nonprofit spent $1.3 million between 2005 and 2009. During 2011, spending spiked to nearly $10 million, Internal Revenue Service filings indicate.
The DGA, meanwhile, established a nonprofit called America Works USA in 2011, which raised and spent $4.4 million.
The governors associations still spend far more through their 527 groups. The DGA spent $49 million and the RGA spent $77 million during the 2012 election cycle.
But rising spending by the RGA and DGA’s nonprofits, which have funded state-level battles over union rights, supreme court seats, tax policy and national healthcare reform, has gone largely unnoticed — and is likely to increase this year and next when 38 governorships are up for election.
The increase, says RGA spokesman Michael Schrimpf, is because “the number of GOP governors has increased along with the importance of their role as policy leaders.”
The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowed nonprofits to accept unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals and spend the money on advertising in an attempt to elect or defeat candidates.
As spending by nonprofits and super PACs has exploded in federal elections, the same trend can be seen at the state level, says Stetson University law professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy.