GOVERNMENT REFORM

» Government Ethics and Lobbying Reform

» Money in Politics

» Open Government

» Stealth PACs

» Public Protections


Stealth PACs Resources

Sign Up

To receive regular updates on our campaigns for government accountability. 

Recent Reports

June 24, 2014 - A Rising Tide
Jan. 14, 2014 - Part 2: Beware of a Naive Perspective
Jan. 7, 2014 - Part 1: Beware of a Naive Perspective
June 12, 2013 - The Perils of OIRA Regulatory Review
More - See More Government Reform Reports

Stealth PACs Blog

RSS Feed
Updated Data Posted
Tuesday, November 09, 2010

As of the first FEC update after the election, 194 groups that have either accepted unlimited contributions or not disclosed information about the sources of their money spent $227.2 million to influence this year's elections.

New Data Posted
Monday, November 01, 2010

Reflecting the latest expenditure data posted by the Federal Election Commission on October 31 and the latest contribution data available on Oct. 29.

The new data show 185 groups that either either accept unlimited contributions or do not disclose the sources of their funding, which have collectively spent  $219.8 million to influence this year's elections.

Eighty-one of the groups studies have disclosed information about their contributions, revealing the sources of $96.8 million in funding.

American Action Network Drops Another $2M On Dems' Heads
Friday, October 29, 2010

The American Action Network (AAN) disclosed spending an additional $2.1 million on television ads in seven congressional districts, according to its filings yesterday to the Federal Election Commission.

Almost half of the money ($950,000) was spent on one advertisement targeting Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va), while another ad running against Rep. Martin Henrich (D-N.M.) has a reported cost of $449,730.

In the last few days, AAN has had at least two television ads, targeting Reps. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) that were pulled by television stations in the members' districts. One of those ads, targeting Murphy, appears ready to go back on the air at a reported cost of $123,150. The original ad reportedly included the claim that the health-care overhaul would force "jail time for anyone without coverage. Steve Rabb, a manager for the Connecticut affiliate's parent company, told Congressional Quarterly that the station felt the group's material didn't support the claims [in the ad], and, in fact, contradicted them.

The group also is running ads in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, South Dakota and Minnesota, all against Democrats. With its latest filings, the group, headed by former Minnesota GOP Senator Norm Coleman, has spent about $20 million against Democratic candidates this year without disclosing any of its donors.

Note: The totals posting on our Web site for the American Action Network are slightly lower than reflected in this post as the new spending was not reflected in the FEC download available at mid-day Friday.

 

Astroturf Maven Berman Jumps Into the Electioneering Game
Thursday, October 28, 2010

One of the newer shadow groups to surface in the last few days, the Enterprise Freedom Action Committee, appears to be the latest creation of one of Washington's acknowledged masters of astroturf and stealth tactics: lobbyist and front man Richard Berman.

Enterprise has reported spending $105,000 in the last few days to pay for Internet and radio ads attacking Democratic senators Harry Reid (Nevada) and Patty Murray (Wash.). The group lists Berman as its chief administrative officer and its address is Berman's D.C. office.

Berman, who reportedly embraces his nickname, Dr. Evil, has set up and maintained several astroturf groups. Groups that he runs include the Center for Consumer Freedom and the American Beverage Institute. The Center for Consumer Freedom was established with an initial $600,000 from tobacco company Phillip Morris and advocates on behalf of restaurant chains and food and beverage companies against nutritional critics and government regulations. Its Web site advises that the "scariest thing to dress up as this Halloween is a food activist." The American Beverage Institute has fought against drunk-driving checkpoints. Berman also operates FishScam.com to push back against green groups and the federal government, which the website claims "have been issuing dire but exaggerated warnings about harmless levels of mercury that have always been present in ocean fish."

Profile of Americans for Job Security Suggest Group's Own Business Motives
Thursday, October 28, 2010

Peter Stone of the Center for Public Integrity has written an excellent piece that expands on the allegations against Americans for Job Security. Among other things, the piece includes allegations from Republican operative Charlie Black that AJS was willing to offer its support to Republican senatorial candidate Jane Norton -- for the right price. Norton's side evidently did not ante up and AJS instead spent nearly a million ads benefiting her opponent, Ken Buck, who won the nomination.

In the late 1990s, AJS was among the pioneers in the practice of third-party groups using corporate money to influence elections. Public Citizen in 2007 filed complaints with the FEC and IRS against the group for allegedly violating the terms of its tax status and of violating federal election law engaging in electioneering as a "major purpose" but failing to file as a political committee.

Election Spending by Outside Groups Is Concentrated and Hidden
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We've posted a new report, examining the outside groups spending money to influence the current elections. Out of 149 independent groups who reported spending money through Oct. 25, just 10 groups are responsible for the bulk of the spending, and almost two-thirds of the money fueling that spending has come from undisclosed sources. Read the report [PDF] here.


Chamber Discloses Spending $140K Against Boxer
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In a new filing with the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has disclosed spending an additional $140,000 on its continuing television ad attack against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) without disclosing the sources of its funding. The ad campaign was reported on by the Los Angeles Times.

 

Latest Spending
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Since yesterday, political parties and outside groups have reported an additional $33.7 million spent for independent expenditures from Oct. 13 through today. Twenty groups were responsible for almost all of the reported spending, led by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which reported $21.6 million for yesterday.

The biggest non-party spenders were the conservative groups Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads, created by Republican political operative Karl Rove, which reported spending $6.1 million, most of it opposing Democratic candidates. Crossroads GPS, which has avoided disclosing its funders by incorporating as a non-profit group, accounted for most of the two groups spending, reporting $4.7 million in spending on television advertisements.

Most of the reported spending was to oppose candidates, with $31.7 million spent on critical advertisements, flyers and other materials and research, while only $2 million of the reported spending was to support candidates.

 

 

Who's Funding the Stealth PACs?
Friday, October 22, 2010

Here is an overview of some of the biggest, and/or most interesting funders of the corporate-funded electioneering groups. Most of the contributions shown here were disclosed in the last couple of days.

Bob Perry – $7 million to American Crossroads; $50,000 to First Amendment Alliance. Perry is a Texas real estate developer, owner of Perry’s Homes, and a long time giver to Republican and independent conservative causes, notably Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which attacked Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam War service during the senator’s campaign for president in 2004. Perry also was a bundler for Mitt Romney’s 2008 primary campaign for president, raising an undisclosed amount.

Robert Rowling – $2.5 million to American Crossroads. Rowling is the CEO of TRT Holdings, a company that owns the Gold’s Gym and Omni Hotel chains. In the 2008 presidential campaign, Rowling was a bundler for Republican presidential Rudy Giuliani. Rowling also was a Pioneer for former President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection effort, raising at least $100,000 and he was among individuals who pledged to raise the same amount for Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, but did not reportedly get there. Forbes magazine puts his worth at $4.1 billion, which ranks him among the 100 richest Americans.

Wayne Hughes Sr. – $2.3 million to American Crossroads. Hughes is the chairman and founder of Public Storage Inc. and is worth $2.1 billion, according to Forbes.

Alliance Resource Group – $2 million to American Crossroads. Alliance is a holding company for various coal production and marketing operations, most based in the eastern United States.

Fred Eshelman – As much as $5.1 million to RightChange.com, for which he is the primary funder. Eshelman’s company, Pharmaceutical Product Development, is a drug development company based in North Carolina.

Jerry Perenchio – $1 million through a trust to American Crossroads. Perenchio is the former chairman and CEO of Univision Broadcasting, the largest Spanish-language broadcasting company in the U.S. Perenchio was in the elite tier of bundlers for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, one of 70 individuals and couples who raised $500,000 or more for the campaign, while he raised at least $100,000 for former President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection effort. Forbes magazine puts his worth at $2.2 billion and ranks him among the 200 richest Americans.

Southwest Louisiana Land LLC and Dixie Rice Agricultural Corporation – $1 million each to American Crossroads. Large or controlling stakes in both companies are held by Harold Simmons, a Texas investor whose worth of $5 billion numbers him among the 200 richest individuals in the world, according to Forbes. Simmons was a major contributor to the American Issues Project, a group whose ads linked President Obama to former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers during the 2008 presidential campaign, and to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 2004 presidential election.

Trevor Rees-Jones – $ 1 million to American Crossroads. Rees-Jones is a Texas oil and gas investor worth $3 billion, and is among the 200 richest Americans, according to Forbes.

Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PHRMA) - $775,000 to Citizens for Strength and Security. PHRMA is the main trade group representing the brand-name pharmaceutical industry and is one of the biggest players in Washington, spending more than $11 million on lobbying in 2010.

H. Wayne Huizenga – $50,000 to American Crossroads. Huizenga was the founder of Waste Management and Blockbuster Video, and formerly owned the Miami Dolphins of the NFL. In the 2008 presidential campaign, Huizenga was a bundler for the presidential primary campaign of Mitt Romney and a major contributor to John McCain’s general election campaign, donating $70,000 to McCain’s joint fundraising effort with the Republican party, the maximum then allowed by law.

Donald Trump – $50,000 to American Crossroads. Trump was a bundler for the 2008 general election presidential campaign of John McCain, raising at least $50,000 and contributing $28,450 to McCain’s joint fundraising committee. Forbes magazine ranks him as one of the 200 wealthiest Americans, worth $2.4 billion.

 

New Contributions Data Posted
Friday, October 22, 2010

We have posted new contributions data based on the monthly and pre-general reports filed by mid-day yesterday. Preliminary analysis puts into perspective the big money onslaught the Supreme Court unleashed in its Citizens United opinion.

As we have discussed before, the sources of most of the money being spent by unregulated outside groups is not being disclosed. However, of that which is, a staggering share is coming from a very few donors.

 

The groups we are studying in this project -- each of which is either accepting contributions in excess of the previous $5,000 annual limit for federally regulated PACs or has said nothing about its funding -- have reported more than 264,000 contributions, totaling $71.1 million. Of these, a mere 401 donations have accounted for a staggering $48.8 million of the reported contributions.

New Contributions Information
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Since Wednesday, American Crossroads has filed two reports disclosing details on its contributions, revealing the sources of $15 million in funding, bringing the total that the group has disclosed to $23 million.

Although the group reported contributions from more than 300 groups and individuals, more than 90 percent of the money came from donors giving $100,000 or more. The top donor was Texas developer Bob Perry at $5 million, bringing his total giving to the group to $7 million. Robert Rowling, the owner of Gold's Gym, gave $1 million in his own name while TRT Holdings Inc., Gold's parent company, also gave $1 million, bringing the Rowling/TRT total to $4.8 million; other top donors include the Alliance Resource Group LLC ($2 million); Weaver Popcorn Inc. ($500,000) and Stephens Investments Holdings LLC ($100,000).

We wrote about Stephens years ago in our "Spending Millions to Save Billions" report on the estate tax in 2006.

We are breaking down all of the new contributions and will post them tomorrow morning.

Updated Data
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our database has been updated to reflect reports received by the Federal Election Commission through Oct. 20. The database now includes $148.7 million in spending by 146 soft money groups. Another update will be coming tomorrow morning.

Public Citizen Files FEC Complaint Against American Future Fund
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Public Citizen, Protect Our Elections and the Center for Media and Democracy today filed a complaint against the American Future Fund, charging that the group's "major purpose" is electioneering, which would require it to register as a political committee.

Although the Supreme Court and other federal courts have shredded most laws relating to outside groups' electioneering activities, such a finding would at least require AFF to reveal the sources of its funds.

The group, which has spent nearly $8.8 million to influence this years elections, has so far made no such disclosure.

Such secrecy is particularly hypocritical for this group because it has broadcast ads slamming the imam behind the proposed mosque in southern Manhattan for allegedly "raising millions overseas from secret donors." Evidently, the group believes we have more of a right to know the details of a religious organization's finances than of a group aiming to influence our elections.

In September, we called the group and sent an e-mail message to the address listed on its Web site (info@americanfuturefund.com) asking who its funders are. The message was returned as undeliverable.

Today's complaint was the second Public Citizen has filed against independent electioneering groups in the past two week's, following up on a complaint against Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS that was submitted on October 13.

Revised Expenditures Data Is Up
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Figures through Tuesday October 19 show that 120 "soft money" groups have spent a total of $130.5 million to influence this year's elections. They are led by Karl Rove's twin American Crossroads entities ($20.8 million), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($17.3 million and the American Action Network ($10.8 million.)

The American Action Network, which is led by former Sens. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and George Allen (R-Va.), and former Nixon aide Fred Malek, has reported spending $9.9 million just since Oct. 12. 

Public Citizen Unveils Database to Track Record Amounts of Secret Money Being Funneled Into November Elections
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

With record amounts of secret money being funneled through nonprofit organizations to influence the upcoming elections, Public Citizen today unveiled an Internet database to track the activity.

The new Stealth PACs database is available at www.citizen.org/stealthpacs.

The project tracks 120 groups that are working to influence the elections with large contributions from corporations, unions or wealthy individuals in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

All contributors giving more than $5,000 are reported, as are payments to vendors and other recipients of more than $1,000. The information on the site will be updated frequently through the Nov. 2 election. Visitors to the website can view electioneering activity sorted by individual groups, electoral contests and states.

The 120 groups included in the site spent $109 million to influence elections this year (as reported to the Federal Election Commission through Oct. 12), led by Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and its related Crossroads GPS ($18.4 million); the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($15.5 million); the AFL-CIO ($9.4 million); American Future Fund ($7.7 million); and 60 Plus Association ($6.1 million).

“Public Citizen and many others predicted a tidal wave of corporate money entering and distorting the electoral process after the Citizens United decision,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “But the situation is far worse than we expected. The corporate and billionaire money - and resultant TV ads - are degrading our democracy, shaking its very foundations.”

Of the 120 groups, only 29 provide any information about the funders of their election ads. They reported $33.2 million in contributions. Of the highest-spending groups, only American Crossroads discloses any information about its funders; its sister organization, Crossroads GPS, is a 501(c)(4) and so does not disclose the identities of its donors.

Among reported contributions, roughly half have come from just a few sources. Of more than 114,000 contributors, only 106 have given more than $5,000, the previous limit for giving to political action committees. Yet these donors have accounted for $15.9 million of the $33.2 million in disclosed contributions. This means that 0.09 percent of donors have accounted for 48.1 percent of the contributions.

“Some of the groups that are operating in the shadows this year were around when we studied this phenomenon back in 2004,” said Taylor Lincoln, research director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Others seem to have sprung up overnight, yet it’s difficult to identify the ones we know less about.”

Copyright © 2014 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.

 

To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.