An unsuccessful Democratic congressional candidate and a watchdog group have sued the Internal Revenue Service for failing to regulate nonprofit groups that spend millions on campaign ads without disclosing their donors.
The lawsuit was filed today in U.S. District Court by David Gill, who lost a race for the House in Illinois, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which previously filed complaints with the IRS and Federal Election Commission. At issue is whether groups that primarily spend their money on campaigns can legally register as 501(c)(4) social welfare groups and keep their donors hidden.
Republican-leaning outside groups spent more than $3 million against Gill, who lost an open seat race to Republican Rodney Davis. The American Action Network, which does not disclose its donors, spent $2.6 million of that total, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.
“Voters should know who is funding political advertisements, so that they have the information necessary to properly evaluate the claims contained therein,” Gill said. “By its inaction, the IRS has allowed shadowy groups to influence elections under a cloak of darkness.”
Bloomberg News reported in May that the drug companies’ trade group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, donated $4.5 million to the American Action Network in 2010.