As you know, the regimen of campaign finance regulations in the Citizens United era is more loophole than law. The particular loophole that allows donors to avoid having their names disclosed requires that the money, which the donors and everyone else knows will be spent on partisan political work, be funneled through an organization that has been accepted by the IRS as fundamentally a non-profit “social welfare” organization.
The dishonesty of this arrangement is slightly more transparent now, thanks to ProPublica, the non-profit investigative journalism outfit.
ProPublica submitted a Freedom of Information Act to the IRS for the documents Karl Rove submitted in setting up Crossroads GPS, which is precisely the kind of organization that offers a “dark money” option for publicity shy Republican donors. The gag is that Crossroads GPS has to be able to pass as a “social welfare” organization. The IRS has neither approved nor denied Crossroads GPS’ application (which has been pending for more than two years), and it apparently shouldn’t have provided the application materials to ProPublica. But it did. And ProPublica faces possible legal action against it for publishing the document. But it did. So we get to see the silliness of the “social welfare” pretense.
In its piece, published today, ProPublica quotes from Crossroads application. From the article:
The group’s application for recognition as a social welfare nonprofit acknowledged  that it would spend money to influence elections, but said ‘any such activity will be limited in amount, and will not constitute the organization’s primary purpose….’
“…Crossroads’ breakdown of planned activities said it would focus half its efforts on ‘public education,’ 30 percent on ‘activity to influence legislation and policymaking’ and 20 percent on ‘research,’ including sponsoring ‘in-depth policy research on significant issues.’
This seems at odds with much of what the group has done since filing the application, experts said. Within two months of filing its application, Crossroads spent about $15.5 million on ads telling people to vote against Democrats or for Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections.”
During the 2012 campaign cycle, Crossroads spent more than $70 million, much of it on advertising whose partisan political purpose was obvious. Because of the pending application for “social welfare” classification, Crossroads GPS has not been required to, nor has it, disclosed the donors. If the IRS eventually rejects the application, the donor’s names might have to be disclosed.