Campaign Finance Regulators Won’t Do Their Job. Can a Lawsuit Force Their Hand?

Mother Jones

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It’s a case that has haunted campaign finance watchdogs for years. The Commission on Hope, Growth, and Opportunity (CHGO) emerged in early 2010 as a nonprofit that would not engage in political work. Then, in the six weeks before the 2010 elections, the group spent about $4 million on political ads across 15 congressional races, all attacking Democrats. But in filings with the IRS, the group maintained that none of its spending was campaign-related, and it did not disclose any of its spending with the Federal Election Commission. Facing complaints from federal regulators, the group folded. Some of its key players—including Scott Reed, now a top strategist at the US Chamber of Commerce, and Wayne Berman, the chief fundraiser for Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign—split more than $1 million in leftover funds. No one involved was ever sanctioned.

Almost all the money CHGO raised came from a single donor. The group’s ability to spring up, use secret money to influence elections, and then disappear provides a template for rich donors who want to pick off or boost candidates without revealing their political activity.

But one watchdog group, the Democratic-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), believes it has found a way to hold the group’s key players accountable. If successful, the effort could set its own template for forcing lax federal regulators to crack down on campaign finance violations by the types of outside groups that have been awash in money since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling.

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Campaign Finance Regulators Won’t Do Their Job. Can a Lawsuit Force Their Hand?

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