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Ethics watchdog targets Coleman's advocacy group

  • Blog Post by:
  • March 8, 2011 - 9:35 PM
The 2010 elections are history, but the legacy of Citizens United lives on.
 
The non-profit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tuesday to investigate whether a group run by former Minnesota U.S. Senator Norm Coleman violated tax laws in the run-up to the midterm elections.
 
CREW claims that Coleman’s American Action Network (AAN) engaged in political campaign activity as its primary purpose, contrary to IRS rules for a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization.
 
AAN spokesman Jim Landry called CREW’s claim “a baseless complaint from a partisan group with a record of filing baseless complaints.”
 
The dispute stems from the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which led AAN and other outside groups to spend nearly $300 million in the national elections that resulted in a GOP takeover in the U.S. House.
 
Democrats from President Obama on down have taken umbrage at the Citizens United decision, which loosened federal restrictions on electioneering by unions and corporate interests, inspiring groups like AAN to raise unlimited amounts of money without having to disclose their donors.
 
Even so, tax-exempt advocacy groups like AAN are not supposed to devote the majority of their resources to campaign activity, a restriction CREW claims is largely ignored on both sides of the political spectrum.
 
“The American Action Network and Sen. Coleman have every right to work to elect more Republicans, but they can’t violate the tax laws to do it,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.
 
CREW, citing Federal Election Commission reports, says AAN spent at least $18 million on political activities in 2010.
 
A spokesman for the IRS said the government could not comment on CREW’s request for review.
 
 

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