Mon Mar 19, 2012, 06:50 PM
WillyT (58,072 posts)
Corporations Get Tax Breaks Thanks To ‘Citizens United’ - ProPublica/RawStory
Corporations get tax breaks thanks to ‘Citizens United’
by Justin Elliott, ProPublica Though RawStory
Monday, March 19, 2012 15:16 EDT
The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision opened up the way for unlimited corporate spending on politics and has led to the proliferation of non-profit political groups that do not have to disclose the identities of their donors. But it turns out corporations may be getting another benefit from anonymous donations they give to these groups: a break on their taxes.
It all starts with the so-called “social welfare” groups that have become bigger players in the political world in the wake of Citizens United, which knocked down restrictions on campaign activity by such groups. Tax experts say it’s possible that businesses are using an aggressive interpretation of the law to wring a tax advantage out of their donations to these groups. It’s almost impossible to know whether it’s happening, partly because the groups— also known by their IRS designation as 501(c)(4)s—aren’t required to disclose their donors. (That’s why the contributions have been dubbed “dark money.”)
This state of affairs is not entirely new; social welfare groups have long been involved in politics. In 2000, for example, the NAACP National Voter Fund, which is a social welfare group, ran hard-hitting ads just days before the election criticizing George Bush for his opposition to hate-crimes legislation. What’s new is the scale of involvement of such groups in elections, which has expanded dramatically in the wake of Citizens United and is part of the increasing flood of money in elections.
The most prominent of a new crop of the groups is the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS – which raised $43 million in the 2010 midterm elections and is expected to become an even bigger force this year after pledging to raise and spend $300 million with its sister super PAC, American Crossroads. Democrats are also expanding their use of the groups, led by pro-Obama Priorities USA, which raised $2 million last year.
Precisely because they offer anonymity, such groups may be attractive vehicles for companies that want to spend money electing a favored candidate or pushing an issue. In 2010, Target generated a national backlash after giving $100,000 to a Minnesota group that ran ads supporting a candidate who opposed gay marriage. Liberal activists seized on the donation after it was revealed in state filings. If Target – or any other public or private corporation – gave to Crossroads GPS or Priorities USA, the public would never know.
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