Tea party groups and other conservative nonprofits at the heart of a scandal rocking the Internal Revenue Service have, of late, largely avoided electoral politics, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of Federal Election Commission filings.
About five dozen groups with the buzzwords “tea party,” “patriot” and “9/12” in their names have been officially recognized by the IRS as "social welfare" nonprofits under Section 501(c)(4) of U.S. tax code. There are about 90,000 such organizations.
But only two of the buzzword groups reported overtly advocating for or against political candidates during 2012, or even mentioning political candidates in broadcast advertisements immediately before primary or general elections.
And one of those is, in fact, unabashedly liberal.
Both groups, which use a version of "patriot" in their names, offer contrasting perspectives into the nebulous world of politically active nonprofits.
One of these is Patriotic Veterans, Inc, a Chicago-based organization launched in 2008. Conservative political consultant Paul Caprio serves as its president.
Patriotic Veterans told the FEC that it spent $86,700 on radio ads that mentioned Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Republican House candidate Adam Kinzinger of Illinois ahead of during the 2012 election.
IRS records show automated phone calls have also been a regular expense of the group.
In 2004, Caprio worked with John O’Neill, co-author of the controversial book Unfit for Command, to design a voter-contact program aimed at veterans highlighting Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s “true record of service in Vietnam,” according to Caprio’s online biography.