The Justice Department has been asked by campaign watchdog groups to launch an investigation into pro-Rubio TV ads in the early nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Serious questions are being raised about the legality of television ads that are being aired in the early nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire by Conservative Solutions Project, an outside group promoting Republican Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.
NBC News reports that Conservative Solutions Project (CSP) “has spent nearly $8.5 million in TV ads — making it the second-biggest advertiser in the 2016 Republican race so far.”
The ads feature Rubio “denouncing the Iran deal and delivering one of his early political speeches in 2015,” however, “unlike a Super PAC, Conservative Solutions Project doesn’t have to disclose its donors because it exists as a tax-exempt social welfare group under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code.”
Paul C. Ryan of the campaign-finance watchdog Campaign Legal Center told NBC News that: “I think they’re breaking the law.”
Earlier this month the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, another campaign-finance watchdog, sent a letter to the Justice Department seeking an investigation of Conservative Solutions Project (CSP).
According to the letter, “The investigation should determine whether CSP is improperly conferring a ‘private benefit’ on Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign in violation of federal tax law by engaging in excessive campaign activity on Senator Rubio’s behalf that is not permitted for a section 501(c)(4) organization.”
“The publicly available facts indicate that Conservative Solutions Project is little more than a single-candidate 501(c)(4), with no other mission than to advance the presidential aspirations of Marco Rubio,” the letter continued, adding: “501(c)(4) ‘social welfare’ groups by statute must [promote] the common good and general welfare of the people of the community as a whole rather than an individual candidate for political office.”
The publicly reported facts make clear that the overriding purpose of Conservative Solutions Project, a group claiming 501(c)(4) nonprofit tax status, is to support Senator Marco Rubio’s campaign for president. The law is clear that this is not permissible under the tax code. This is a case of a political group brazenly ignoring the nation’s laws in order to provide political benefits for a political candidate.
As NBC News reports, “unlike a Super PAC, Conservative Solutions Project doesn’t have to disclose its donors because it exists as a tax-exempt social welfare group under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code,” and the letter to the Justice Department addressed that issue, alleging that: “The Conservative Solutions Project is flaunting the tax laws and flaunting the interests of the American people by using its improper claim of nonprofit tax status to keep secret the donors financing its campaign activities.”
The Tax Division of the Justice Department cannot sit idly by and enable groups like Conservative Solutions Project to deny citizens information they have a basic right to know. The Division should promptly open an investigation into the activities of Conservative Solutions Project and take appropriate action against the group.
As one might expect, officials at Conservative Solutions Project deny that the organization is supporting Rubio’s presidential candidacy, and a spokesperson for Rubio’s presidential campaign declined to comment.