Political watchdog group Citizens for Responsbility and Ethics in Washington wants the Internal Revenue Service to punish a nonprofit group that spent millions of dollars on advertisements boosting Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., ahead of his election victory last year.
Carolina Rising provided "a vehicle for donors to make unlimited secret contributions to benefit candidates, and that is not permitted under the law," the organization's Executive Director Noah Bookbinder argues. "While the public is kept in the dark, the candidate or official almost certainly knows who made the often-large contributions."
In the complaint, Bookbinder asks the IRS to consider stripping Carolina Rising of its nonprofit status, hitting the group with excise taxes and treating it as a taxable corporation or political group.
But CREW faces major headwinds: The IRS has shown little interest in pursuing politically active nonprofits, particularly in the aftermath of a 2013 scandal in which staffers singled out conservative groups for enhanced scrutiny.
In North Carolina's bitterly fought U.S. Senate contest last year, Carolina Rising ran nearly 4,000 TV ads.
In August 2014 alone, it ran more ads than either then-Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democratic candidate, or Tillis, her Republican challenger who ultimately won the seat.