Nonprofit Groups Shield Big Companies’ Political Spending

Major corporations are increasingly seeking to shape campaigns by contributing to tax-exempt advocacy organizations that are not required to disclose who contributes to their political activities, writes The New York Times.

Energy utility American Electric Power, insurance giant Aetna, Prudential Financial, and Dow Chemical are among the firms that have donated $1-million or more to 501(c)(4) and other nonprofit groups that spend heavily money on issue advertising.

Unlike traditional campaign organizations and political-action committees, nonprofits are not required to reveal their donors so long as their primary mission is not political under Internal Revenue Service regulations. The Times found information on the corporate contributions in a review of firms’ governance reports, regulatory filings, and other documents.

Such organizations outspent “super PACs” during the 2010 election cycle and will likely do so again this year “because so many donors want to remain anonymous,” said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that has filed complaints against the advocacy groups.

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