More than $5 million has been spent on television ads backing Marco Rubio's presidential run—but none of it has come from the Florida senator's campaign, or even the super-PAC formed to help elect him. Instead, all the spending has come from a dark money group that does not disclose its donors, reports Pema Levy at Mother Jones.
On Thursday, two campaign finance watchdog groups asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether the Conservative Solutions Project's work on Rubio's behalf is legal. In a letter to the tax division of DOJ, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 allege that the group exists solely to support Rubio's candidacy, in violation of its 501(c)(4) nonprofit tax status. That tax status allows the group to raise unlimited sums—it has raised over $18 million thus far—while keeping its donors secret.
Unlike super-PACs, which are allowed to focus on supporting one candidate, 501(c)(4)s are tax exempt because they are supposed to focus on promoting the "social welfare." But as the letter lays out, the Conservative Solutions Project appears to be working solely to elect Rubio.
According to Levy, the pro-Rubio group is avoiding IRS scrutiny as long as possible. Rather than seeking advanced approval of its 501(c)(4) status, the group is holding off on approval of its status until it files its next tax return—likely deferring an inquiry until after the Republican primary is over. The Conservative Solutions Project told the [New York] Times that the decision not to file an application, which is legal, was made in response to IRS bias against conservative groups.