A liberal "dark money" group that leads national and state-based Democratic coalitions and dubs itself the “hub of the progressive community” raised $13.4 million in its most recent fiscal year, spending about 43 percent of the total on “direct or indirect campaign activities,” according to a recently released tax document, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.
America Votes swapped cash with other politically active nonprofits — including a handful with ties to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Clinton has railed against a campaign finance system that allows such organizations to exist, even as her presidential candidacy benefits from it.
Little is known about who exactly funds America Votes.
About 60 percent of the nonprofit's haul between July 2014 and June 2015 was provided by 11 anonymous donors who all gave at least $500,000. One undisclosed donor gave $1.3 million, according to the new tax document.
As a rule, America Votes and fellow 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofits do not disclose their donors and are forbidden from making politics their “primary” purpose. Nonetheless, many such groups serve as vehicles for pouring millions of dollars into influencing elections, though they can’t spend the majority of their funds on politics. Such groups have proliferated since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that opened the floodgates to high-octane, secretive election spending.
Right-leaning groups — namely “social welfare” nonprofits formed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch — are usually the first to be criticized for funneling money through these opaque channels. But liberal groups like America Votes indulge in the use of dark money too, by building a network of organizations that work in concert to get Democrats elected.
America Votes did not respond to specific questions from the Center for Public Integrity, but Sara Schreiber, managing director, issued a statement that read in part, “As per its IRS designation as an issues-based advocacy organization, America Votes is not required to publicly disclose its donors.”
In all, America Votes granted about $3 million to almost three dozen 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofits between July 2014 and June 2015. While some of this went toward issue-based advocacy across states, a portion flowed to groups that are more overtly political.