One of the largest super PACs active in Virginia’s high-profile U.S. Senate race last year has ceased operations and transferred its leftover funds to a Georgia-based nonprofit — though what the group plans to do with the funds is unclear.
Rise and Shine America, Inc., the Georgia nonprofit, was organized as a “social welfare” organization under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code. It received nearly $42,000 on April 30 from Independence Virginia PAC, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Ahead of the 2012 election, Independence Virginia PAC spent approximately $5 million attempting to boost Republican George Allen in his unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid against Democrat Tim Kaine.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson accounted for $4 million of the group’s $5.2 million in receipts. Adelson was the top donor to super PACs during the 2012 election cycle, when he, along with his relatives, contributed more than $93 million to GOP-aligned super PACs.
Independence Virginia PAC’s donation to Rise and Shine America was first reported by Roll Call’s Kent Cooper, who posited that the funds might be used in connection with the state's upcoming U.S. Senate election.
However, Doug Chalmers, the attorney for Rise and Shine America, Inc., told the Center for Public Integrity that the nonprofit “does not intend to be involved in the Georgia U.S. Senate race.”
“We're not sure how that story got started, but it's pure speculation and incorrect,” he wrote in an email to the Center for Public Integrity.
Chalmers declined to specify how the money would be put to use.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss announced that he will not seek re-election, sparking a flurry of interest from Georgia Republicans who are eyeing the seat including three sitting U.S. House members, Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston.
In filings with the Internal Revenue Service, Rise and Shine America describes its mission as “protecting conservative values” such as “limited government” and “fiscal responsibility.”
Harry “Chip” Lake III, a former aide to Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., serves as Rise and Shine America’s chief executive officer, chief financial officer and secretary, according to business records filed with the state of Georgia.
The super PAC’s five-figure donation nearly equals the nonprofit’s entire budget during its first year of existence.
As of June 30, 2012, at the end of its first fiscal year, the nonprofit listed assets of $340 with liabilities of $2,000 — leaving it $1,660 in the red.
There is at least one definitive link between Rise and Shine America and Independence Virginia PAC: Republican political consultant Paul Bennecke.
Bennecke was the treasurer of the Virginia-based super PAC. He is also listed as a director of Rise and Shine America on its IRS annual report.
Bennecke, a former executive director of Georgia’s Republican Party and former political director of the Republican Governors Association, could not be reached for comment.
The Center for Public Integrity is a non-profit, independent investigative news outlet. For more of its stories on this topic go to publicintegrity.org.