Non-Profits Election Spending
Expected to Increase
Over 100 nonprofits spent about $95 million dollars compared to $65 million spent by super PACs in the 2010 election. So says a recent joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics. And, conservative “social welfare” nonprofits outspent their liberal counterparts by almost 5-to-1.
A big reason why nonprofit spending outpaced super PAC spending is that super PACs must reveal their contributors’ identities, but nonprofits don’t. In fact, almost 90 percent of nonprofit spending was made by groups that didn’t publicly disclose their funders, according to Federal Election Commission data.
So while super PACs have spent over $120 million to date in the 2012 election cycle and nonprofits have spent only about $9 million, the gap in spending is expected to close now that the candidates have been named.
The 2010 midterm election was the first time outside groups were permitted to accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to spend on ads supporting or opposing candidates, leading to the formation of super PACs.
Nonprofits are legally allowed to spend significant sums of money on electioneering and lobbying — so long as electoral politics isn’t a group’s primary purpose.
In addition, nonprofits must report their expenses to the Federal Election Commission if their:
• advertisements expressly advocate for or against federal candidates,
• broadcast ads mention a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election, but don’t overtly urge viewers to elect or defeat that candidate,
• internal political communications target a group’s own members.
Three conservative groups accounted for more than half of all such spending in the 2010 elections: the American Action Network, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies and the American Future Fund. These groups will be major players in the 2012 election with Crossroads GPS, along with American Crossroads, spending as much as $300 million according to the groups.