Americans for Tax Reform, the anti-tax group headed by Grover Norquist, helped bankroll Independent Women’s Voice, a conservative-leaning nonprofit that has pushed to elect Republican political candidates, according to new tax documents reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.
Based in Washington, D.C., and led by Heather Higgins, Independent Women’s Voice in recent years has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars backing Republican politicians such as 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Chris McDaniel, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., in a contentious primary earlier this year.
In 2013, Independent Women’s Voice spent about $160,000, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission, aiding Republican Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, during a special election contest in which he ultimately prevailed over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert. It also wants to see President Barack Obama’s health care reform law repealed.
That spending was part of an overall surge of political activity last year by Independent Women’s Voice, which says it aims to “engage more women in the political process.”
The nonprofit told the Internal Revenue Service it spent nearly $960,000 on all “direct and indirect political campaign activities” in 2013 — about 41 percent of the $2.3 million it spent last year — according to a recently filed tax return.
That’s up significantly from 2012, when it spent about $380,000 on “direct and indirect political campaign activities,” which represented about 7.6 percent of its total expenditures. And it’s also an increase from the last non-election year in 2011, when Independent Women’s Voice spent about $350,000 (or 35 percent of its total expenditures) on such activities.
Both Americans for Tax Reform and Independent Women’s Voice are organized as “social welfare” nonprofits under Section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code.
As such, they are not allowed to have a "primary" purpose of engaging in "political activities," and they are generally not required to reveal their donors. Grants they make to other nonprofits, however, must be disclosed.
In addition to Independent Women’s Voice, Americans for Tax Reform also donated $25,000 to Texans for Fiscal Responsibility in 2013 and $11,400 to the Massachusetts-based Citizens for Limited Taxation, according to a copy of its most recent tax return, which was filed with the IRS Monday.
In all last year, Americans for Tax Reform raised $4.3 million and spent $4 million. Ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, Americans for Tax Reform itself spent $122,500 on ads backing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst of Iowa, according to FEC filings.
Neither officials with Americans for Tax Reform nor Independent Women's Voice immediately responded to requests for comment.