The Shadow Money Game - Russ Choma

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Russ Choma, money-in-politics reporter for the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org, presents "Shadow Money: Unraveling Political Nonprofits' Spending," a free, one-hour webinar sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism and the Center for Responsive Politics on May 14.

For more information about business journalism training, please visit http://businessjournalism.org.

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The Shadow Money Game - Russ Choma

  1. 1. The Shadow Money Game Unraveling Political Nonprofit Funding Russ Choma Money-In-Politics Reporter OpenSecrets.org
  2. 2. CRP/OpenSecrets.org
  3. 3. A business story?
  4. 4. A business story? ●  Federal government’s actions are a major factor in every businesses bottom line -- understanding how businesses manipulate Washington is crucial. ●  Business reporters have some unique skills to work on this. ●  Cutting edge is corporations -- the dark money LLC.
  5. 5. What we’ll talk about ●  What is dark money? ●  What does OpenSecrets.org do to help you understand dark money? ●  How to look for dark money stories and make them relevant. ●  What’s the next big story to look for? ●  Resources
  6. 6. What is dark money? ●  Hard money vs. soft money ●  Citizens United o  What did it not do? ▪  Make corporations people. ▪  Allow corporations to give politicians money. o  What did it do? ▪  Enabled corporations (which were already people) to spend money on campaigns -- indirectly. ▪  Unleashed the nonprofits.
  7. 7. Independent expenditures vs. issue ads ●  Independent EXpenditures are EXplicit ●  Anyone can make them ●  Reported to the FEC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frzHJlsUmdE ADVERTISEMENT:
  8. 8. Independent expenditures vs. issue ads ●  Issue ads can be explicit ●  Theoretically about issues ●  NOT reported to the FEC* ●  Reported to the FCC* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7qoOYC-QE0 ADVERTISEMENT:
  9. 9. Super PACs vs. 501(c)(4) ●  Super PACs o  Independent expenditure only o  Report donors o  Report ALL spending ●  501(c)(4) o  nonprofit corporation o  One of many types of 501(c) groups o  Don’t disclose donors o  Don’t usually disclose spending
  10. 10. Why do you/your editor care? $1.05 Billion
  11. 11. Why do you/your editor care? •  Citizens United allowed corporations to spend on political campaigns – but they’re not doing it publicly. •  Aetna accidentally disclosed $7.8 million to anti- Obamacare groups, while publicly backing it. •  Reynolds American, cigarette maker, gave to Americans for Tax Reform and others • Lobbying: • Intuit’s opposition to simple tax filings.
  12. 12. What does OpenSecrets.org do? • Cory Booker: $12.2 million, over 5,000 pages of campaign filings, tens of thousands of donors.
  13. 13. What does OpenSecrets.org do?
  14. 14. What does OpenSecrets.org do?
  15. 15. What does OpenSecrets.org do?
  16. 16. What does OpenSecrets.org do? •  Campaign finance • Candidates, PACs (corporate, labor, etc.) and parties • 14,200+ organizations • Lobbying • 4,100+ organizations • Personal finances • Outside spending
  17. 17. What does OpenSecrets.org do?
  18. 18. OpenSecrets.org and dark money http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/
  19. 19. OpenSecrets.org and dark money http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/
  20. 20. OpenSecrets.org and dark money ]
  21. 21. OpenSecrets.org and dark money
  22. 22. Finding dark money stories – 990s • Sources: • Guidestar • CitizenAudit • OpenSecrets.org • Key Information: • Revenues • Contacts • Directors • Top vendors • Grants
  23. 23. Finding dark money stories – FCC
  24. 24. Finding dark money stories – FCC ●  All stations must keep this public file, all political spending must be included -- local, state, federal and “issue” ads.
  25. 25. Finding dark money stories – FCC
  26. 26. Finding dark money stories – FCC
  27. 27. Finding dark money stories – FCC ●  TV lobby is powerful, so currently only available for the top 50 markets -- that’s changing this summer. ●  Does not include cable ads. ●  Does include local races. ●  Every filing is different, and different stations may require different information, but it’s a start.
  28. 28. Finding dark money stories – SOS Filings ●  Non-profits ARE corporations -- not only do they file 990s, they file annual reports with states. ●  Increasingly, dark money groups are reporting links with LLCs (more on this later). ○  Most political reporters have no idea what to do about this. ○  Disregarded entities/loans/consultants, etc.
  29. 29. What’s the next big story? ●  2012 was the year of the super PAC, with 501(c) groups making an appearance. ●  2014 will have heavy activity by 501(c) groups, but… ●  The smart money has already moved on to “new fangled vehicles” -- LLCs. ●  The for-profit political company?
  30. 30. Questions? Russ Choma rchoma@crp.org 202.354.0108 opensecrets.org
  31. 31. Resources ●  OpenSecrets.org ●  Sunlight Foundation.com ●  CitizenAudit.org -- 990s ●  FCC -- political files ●  SEC filings ●  State filings

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