Conservative nonprofits that received tax-exempt status since the beginning of 2010 and also filed election spending reports with the Federal Election Commission overwhelmed liberal groups in terms of money spent on politics, an analysis of Internal Revenue Service and FEC records shows.
Of the 21 organizations that received rulings from the IRS after January 1, 2010, and filed FEC reports in 2010 or 2012, 13 were conservative. They outspent the liberal groups in that category by a factor of nearly 34-to-1, the Center for Responsive Politics analysis shows.
By far the largest driver of the disparity was American Action Network, whose $30.6 million in spending reported to the FEC in 2010 and 2012 mades up 94 percent of the conservative total. However, even without American Action Network, spending by conservative groups approved after 2010 was nearly quadruple that of liberal groups receiving exempt status in the same period.
American Action Network, whose co-founder and chairman is former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, received exempt status in April of 2010 -- two months after originally filing its application -- according to IRS records. Its application was filed just weeks after the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC decision, which loosened political spending rules for corporations, including nonprofits.
Groups don't need to have their status approved by the IRS in order to operate. But they must report to the FEC any spending on communications that urge a vote for or a vote against a candidate, and any spending on "issue ads" -- slightly less overt political messages -- that occurs in the weeks just before an election.