You should also be aware that some of these organizations now operate in tandem with super PACs. One of the most powerful conservative pairings of this kind is American Crossroads, a super PAC, and Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)4. The difference between the two: "On the policy side, Crossroads GPS, we are working to stop President Obama's agenda. On the political side, American Crossroads, we're looking to replace him as president," says Nate Hodson, a spokesman for both organizations.
One appeal of 501(c) groups is the promise of donor anonymity. If you give more than $200 through the traditional system or to a super PAC, your name, address and size of donation will be disclosed by the Federal Election Commission and published online. With these politically active 501(c) organizations, that's not the case.
"It's something that's worth a moment's thought," says Mr. Samples of the Cato Institute. "A Google search will frequently turn up these things."
But a word of caution: The promised anonymity may not be guaranteed. A U.S. district-court judge ruled last month that the FEC went beyond its authority when it allowed nonprofits to keep secret the identities of donors who financed certain election ads. This sets the stage for a battle over donor anonymity, says Mr. Mann of the Brookings Institution.
Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service—which is responsible for granting 501(c)4 status to organizations—recently asked for extensive details from certain conservative groups applying for that status, including the names of donors.
That suggests some groups may fail to pass muster, leaving their donors' names open to public scrutiny. So donors who expect anonymity should at least be sure that an organization has secured the necessary status before making a contribution
Monday, April 30, 2012
Where to Give?
At The Wall Street Journal, Rachel Louise Ensign offers advice for people who want to give political money: