‘Dark money’ in Missouri
A liberal government watchdog has filed complaints with the Internal Revenue Service against two nonprofits that in 2016 directed nearly $6 million in anonymous campaign money into Missouri to help Eric Greitens’ campaign for governor.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, filed the complaints Thursday against Texas-based Freedom Frontier and Washington,D.C.,-based American Policy Coalition, alleging the groups failed to file their most recent tax returns.
Both groups are registered as 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations and they are required to file annual 990 tax returns. According to the complaints, neither group has filed the required returns.
Freedom Frontier's 990 was due last November and American Policy Coalition's was due last August.
Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for CREW, said the two nonprofits spent millions to help Greitens get elected. The 990 form filed with the IRS is “one of the only ways to know more about their activity and whether they abused their tax-exempt status in order to avoid disclosure of who is spending big money to influence elections."
“The fact that they appear to have failed to file them raises a lot of questions,” he said, “but mainly, do they have something to hide?”
Attempts by The Star to reach American Policy Coalition and Freedom Frontier were unsuccessful.
Both groups played a significant role in Greitens’ successful 2016 campaign for governor.
Freedom Frontier donated $4 million to a political action committee called LG PAC, which in turn spent that money on TV ads lambasting Greitens’ rivals for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
American Policy Coalition donated $2 million to a political action committee called SEALS for Truth, which in turn gave $1.9 million of that money directly to Greitens’ campaign. At the time, it was the single largest campaign contribution ever given to a Missouri candidate.
In both instances, because nonprofits are not required to disclose their donors, the true origin of the money will likely never be known.
CREW, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, has drawn the ire of Republicans in the past. They have noted the group's ties to Clinton ally David Brock and argued that the group exists to target GOP elected officials.
And CREW is no stranger to Missouri politics.
In 2015, it filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission asking it to investigate whether the American Conservative Union, a nonprofit best known for organizing the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, acted illegally as a conduit to pass a $1.7 million donation to Now or Never PAC, which was formed in 2012 to boost Sarah Steelman’s unsuccessful run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri.
At the time of the donation, the American Conservative Union was run by veteran Missouri political strategist Gregg Keller. The treasurer of Now or Never PAC is James Thomas III, a Kansas City lawyer who has ties to Jeff Roe’s consulting firm and serves in a similar role with numerous state-level PACs in Missouri.
The FEC finished its investigation last year, concluding there was probable cause to believe the law was violated and imposing a $350,000 fine.