Pennsylvania super PAC gets 'dark money' infusion

Nonprofit Green Orchard Inc. is lone donor to Prosperity for Pennsylvania

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In the home stretch of the 2014 election, a new super PAC with ties to Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., finds itself flush with “dark money,” according to a new campaign finance filing with the Federal Election Commission.

The sole donor to Prosperity for Pennsylvania is listed as nonprofit Green Orchard Inc., which gave $100,000 on Oct. 6, and has previously helped bankroll several conservative political causes.

The Prosperity for Pennsylvania super PAC itself has not yet reported spending money this election cycle.

Green Orchard itself is a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based “social welfare” nonprofit, as groups formed under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code are known.

Such nonprofit groups are not required by law to reveal their donors, even when contributing to super PACs, which must disclose their funders. A super PAC accepting money from a "dark money" nonprofit group needs only to list the nonprofit's name and address when identifying it as a donor.

Green Orchard formed in December 2012, according to state records, and it describes its mission in tax filings as supporting “economic freedoms,” “free market reforms” and “alternative educational options” by giving out money to “like-minded” organizations.

Philadelphia attorney Brian Sullivan is listed as Green Orchard’s sole director and treasurer on its 2013 tax return with the Internal Revenue Service.

When asked by the Center for Public Integrity about Green Orchard recent six-figure contribution to the Prosperity for Pennsylvania super PAC, Sullivan responded: “That’s what the people wanted to do.”

He continued, before hanging up: “That’s all I can really say. Thanks. Bye.”

During its first year of existence in 2013, Green Orchard raised nearly $3 million, nearly all of which was doled out to other groups, IRS records indicate.

The largest beneficiary of Green Orchard’s financial largess last year was the YG Network, a Virginia-based nonprofit closely aligned with former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. It received $1 million.

Its second-largest contribution: $900,000 to the Virginia-based Legislative Education Action Drive, which "seeks to enhance the debate on choice in education” and whose president is libertarian-leaning real estate developer Howard Rich of New York.

The $900,000 contribution from Green Orchard amounted to nearly 80 percent of the $1.14 million raised by Legislative Education Action Drive in 2013, according to tax records.

Among other beneficiaries in 2013 of Green Orchard money:

  • New York-based Education Reform Now Advocacy, which advocates for charter schools and other education reforms, received $100,000
     
  • Washington, D.C.-based FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group with ties to the tea party movement, received $100,000
     
  • the National Right to Work Committee, a group that “combats compulsory unionism,” received $25,000

When it formed in July, the Prosperity for Pennsylvania super PAC told the FEC that it intended to “raise funds in unlimited amounts” to advocate for or against federal candidates.

GOP consultant Mark Dion, who served as Toomey’s chief of staff from 1999 to 2004, is listed as the treasurer of the Prosperity for Pennsylvania super PAC.

Dion, now a partner at the Virginia-based firm Revolution Agency, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dion’s firm touts work on behalf of clients such as the Florida chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, tax preparer H&R Block and the Miami Heat basketball team.

For the National Federation of Independent Business in Florida, Revolution Agency said it executed a campaign that “succeeded in turning public opinion against Medicaid expansion,” a policy endorsed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott following the passage of the Democrat-backed Affordable Care Act.

Politicians are currently running for office in Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts, the most competitive of which is the state’s 6th Congressional District, where Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach is retiring.

Pennsylvania’s governor’s race is also among the hottest in the country. Incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Tom Wolf.

The gubernatorial contest has drawn more than $43 million for television advertisements, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of estimates from Kantar Media/CMAG, an advertising tracking service.

Only the governor’s races in Illinois and Florida have seen more spending on TV ads.

Neither Toomey nor Democratic Sen. Bob Casey is up for re-election in Pennsylvania this November.

  

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