In the Star Tribune article, Rail safety fight rolls into election politics, J. Patrick Coolican picks up on something Bluestem Prairie reported back in March in Merchants of Daudt II: an oil train of cash.
The post was part of our Merchants of Daudt series, drawing across various sources for campaign finance data and tracking the flow of corporate money into Minnesota politics: Merchants of Daudt I: flipping the MN house on the rising plume of North Dakota oil money and Merchants of Daudt III: Today's energy bill vote & independent expenditures against Rep. Hortman.
RSLC: now with less transparency
The Star Tribune's retread reminded us that we needed to look at the RSLC's monthly 8872 filings with the IRS, which have been the source of the 2014 data that gets churned through various transparency websites. After all, the MN Job Coalition is mailing cheery postcards to swing districts, as we reported in they're not from the group's legislative fund PAC,
Alas, no. The groups has switched to twice-yearly reports, so we only have the income and expenses through June 30. Here's the filing, with the only spending in Minnesota being $6671.00 paid in May to FLS Connect (St. Paul) for direct marketing (page 79):
If RSLC is paying for the current round of MJC postcards in the second half of the year, we won't know about the money until next spring.
Why the change?
Looking around for the reason for the change in reporting, we came across a post by the Washington-based group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Transparency No longer So Important to the RSLC, Apparently. Here's the explanation:
Beginning in 2006, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), a political organization focused on helping the GOP win down-ballot state-level campaigns, held itself to a higher standard when it came to disclosing its finances. Though the group is only required to publicly report its donors and expenses to the Internal Revenue Service quarterly (or semiannually, depending on the year), the RSLC elected to file its disclosure forms on a monthly basis.
The RSLC says it made this choice out of a commitment to transparency (emphasis added):
Is the RSLC a 527 organization?
Yes. The RSLC is registered and files reports with the Internal Revenue Service under 26 U.S.C. 527. Because transparency is important to the RSLC we have voluntarily decided to file reports of all contributions and expenditures on a monthly basis. The RSLC is also registered and reports in many states across the country pursuant to each states specific campaign finance laws.
Well, at least the group used to say that. The above quote is taken from an archived version of the RSLC’s website from June 2014. The current website, which is now hosted on the .gop domain, no longer mentions transparency and doesn’t commit the RSLC to making monthly disclosures.
The most likely reason for this is that the RSLC has actually stopped filing its disclosure reports, known as Form 8872s, with the IRS on a monthly basis. As of today, the last time the RSLC filed an 8872 was in February 2015, and that report covered the end of 2014. The RSLC does not appear to have announced any kind of change to its transparency principles.
At this point in 2013, the last non-election year in which the RSLC filed reports monthly, the organization had already disclosed raising more than $7 million. That early haul included six figure contributions from Devon Energy, Exxon Mobil, Facebook, Wellpoint, Wal-Mart, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The RSLC had also disclosed receiving $54,500 from Koch Industries. On the spending side, the organization had disclosed four contributions, including $15,000 to Crossroads Generation, a youth-focused super PAC with ties to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. The RSLC’s disclosure revealed the contribution two months before Crossroads Generation made it public in a report with the Federal Election Commission.
The mid-year report now embedded above shows that they're slightly behind track, having raised a mere $5,954,574.
Our friends at BNSF have given $50,000 so far (though little has been transferred to Minnesota pockets), and we invite readers to search the document and post their favorite corporate donor in our comment section.
Image: The Merchants of Daudt graphic, courtesy of Dan Feidt Design.
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