Shadowy political outfits like Crossroads GPS and the US Chamber of Commerce—both nonprofits that don't have to disclose their donors—are increasingly dominating the airwaves and the campaign cash fight in the run-up to the 2012 election. In 2010, politically active nonprofits outspent super-PACs by a 3-to-2 margin. This time around, Crossroads GPS- and Chamber-like groups are even more important: Through late April, nearly 90 percent of TV advertising in the 2012 election came from such nonprofits.
Now, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is training his investigative firepower on one of the most powerful dark money players, the New York Times reports. On Tuesday Schneiderman sent subpoenas to officials with the National Chamber Foundation, a nonprofit affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce, one of the biggest-spending nonprofits in American elections. Schneiderman has asked for emails, bank records, and more concerning whether the National Chamber Foundation funneled $18 million to the US Chamber for politicking and lobbying purposes.
Here's more from the Times:
The investigation is also looking at connections between the chamber's foundation, the National Chamber Foundation, and another philanthropy, the Starr Foundation, which made large grants to the chamber foundation in 2003 and 2004. During the same period, the National Chamber Foundation lent the chamber $18 million, most of it for what was described as a capital campaign.
In a complaint filed last year with the attorney general, watchdog groups asserted that the loan had been used to finance lobbying for "tort reform" legislation in Congress and to run issue advertising in the 2004 presidential and Congressional campaigns, most of it against Democrats.
A spokeswoman for the chamber declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mr. Schneiderman.
Mr. Schneiderman's investigation is the first significant one in years into the rapidly growing use of tax-exempt groups to move money into politics. The biggest such groups, including Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which was founded by Karl Rove and other Republican strategists, are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this year on issue advertisements against candidates to sway the outcome of the presidential and Congressional elections.