Rick Perry Supporters Start Non-Profit That Can Accept Unlimited, Secret Donations
WASHINGTON -- Supporters of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential bid have organized a non-profit under the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code to aid his candidacy, according to a report from the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News.
The group, Citizens for a Greater America, will be able to accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals without having to publicly disclose those donations. A fact sheet obtained by iWatch News highlights this feature to donors. The new non-profit was revealed to iWatch News by a person who raises funds for both Perry and the pro-Perry super PAC, Make Us Great Again.
The fundraiser said he obtained information about Citizens for a Greater America from Mike Toomey, the head of the Make Us Great Again super PAC. The address listed for the non-profit is the same as that of Make Us Great Again's treasurer, Paul Kilgore.
Toomey is one of the top lobbyists in Austin, Texas, and previously served as Perry's chief of staff during the governor's first term. Toomey was not alone in moving from the governor's mansion to the lobbying profession -- at least 39 other Perry staffers spun through the revolving door, a previous HuffPost report found. One of those revolving-door lobbyists, Dan Shelley, runs two pro-Perry super PACs, Jobs for Vets and Veterans for Rick Perry.
Make Us Great Again is one of five super PACs supporting Perry in the Republican primary and has plans to raise $55 million to help him get the nomination.
The use of the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code is meant for non-profit entities operating as social welfare organizations, and the use of 501(c)(4) designation for organizations that engage in political activities has raised serious questions. Two campaign finance watchdogs, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, recently called on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate four non-profits that are alleged to primarily act as political organizations. These groups include Crossroads GPS, Priorities USA, American Action Network and Americans Elect.
According to a letter Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center filed with the IRS, "Court decisions have established that in order to meet this requirement, section 501(c)(4) organizations cannot engage in more than an insubstantial amount of any non-social welfare activity, such as directly or indirectly participating or intervening in elections."
The social welfare service offered by 501(c)(4) organizations can include educating the public about an issue. Citizens for a Greater America states it was founded to "promote conservative leadership and values and to educate the public and policy makers about conservative issues and principles," according to the fact sheet obtained by iWatch News.