Betsy DeVos and her big-giving relatives: Family qualifies as GOP royalty

Campaign Finance

I contributed research to a report from the Center for Responsive Politics on President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, and her family’s extensive history of political contributions and nonprofit activity.

Betsy DeVos and her big-giving relatives: Family qualifies as GOP royalty


IRS releasing electronically-filed nonprofit tax data

Campaign Finance

The IRS has broken new ground in nonprofit data transparency

Last week, the IRS released more than one million electronically-filed tax forms in bulk, open, machine-readable form.

There is still, however, work to be done.

Read more about what this means and how the Center for Responsive Politics in building on this concept to expand access to political nonprofit data on the OpenSecrets Blog.

New Wesleyan Media Project Report with the Center for Responsive Politics

Campaign Finance


A new report released by the Wesleyan Media Project in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics hows that 2016 presidential advertising is more than twice what it was at the same point in 2012.

Advertising Volume Up 122% Over 2012 Levels; Spending in Presidential Race Over $400 million

The Center for Responsive Politics has a great OpenSecretsBlog post with highlights from the report.

Advertising surges in presidential race; dark money dominating Senate contests


Bringing dark money out of the shadows

Campaign Finance, Technology



Check out the full infographic at

At the Center for Responsive Politics, we officially launched our newly redesigned Dark Money section, tracking the activities of politically active nonprofits that don’t disclose their wealthy corporate and individual donors to the voters they seek to influence.

This is the first phase of our Knight News Challenge project, Inside the 990 Treasure Trove, aimed at providing the public, journalists and policymakers access to data on dark money groups and clear information about how these groups operate.

You can read more about the new features and infographics in my post, which  was cross-published on OpenSecrets and on the Knight Foundation’s blog.

What happens when you try to discover who’s behind dark money ads

Campaign Finance, Technology

Libby Watson’s new blog post for the Sunlight Foundation follows her account of attempting to discover who’s behind dark money ads as a part of a fascinating larger investigation into Protect America’s Consumers, and also includes a blurb about my own attempt to find more about ads being run by a super PAC on Fox Business Network during a GOP debate:

Verizon FiOS TV makes public inspection files available to be viewed through a limited number of retail stores. … The staff had apparently been briefed not to let me touch the computer so I had to tell the staff members what search terms to use. The clerk helping me was originally hesitant to even let me look at the computer but eventually broke when he realized how many hundreds of file names we would be looking through. The store clerk was patient and continued running searches based on terms I told him such as “Baby Got PAC” and other individuals with ties to the group for over an hour. We performed searches and manually scrolled through the political folders in every region, the entire visit was ultimately fruitless.”

Read more on the Sunlight Foundation blog.

New nonprofit tied to stealthy circle of dark money groups

Campaign Finance

My recent collaboration at the Center for Responsive Politics is about a new organization claiming to be “dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency” that gets 100% of its funds from a group that exists mainly as a “dark money” vehicle for donors to elude transparency.

Excerpt from New nonprofit tied to stealthy circle of dark money groups:

Its funding — $600,000 in 2014, according to the only tax return it has filed to date — comes entirely from a conservative donor-advised fund called DonorsTrust, which means it could come from anywhere. DonorsTrust is a pass-through vessel that manages the charitable contributions of wealthy individuals and foundations to organizations that are “dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,” according to its website, while allowing the donors to remain anonymous. Charles Koch is among the many conservatives who have filtered money through DonorsTrust.

In other words, an organization “dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency” gets 100 percent of its funds from a group that exists mainly as a vehicle for donors to elude transparency.

While we’re on the theme of dark money, there was a fantastic political cartoon in the Washington Post this weekend by Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Tom Toles (seen below).


Election 2016: Donald Trump Campaign Discloses Only Small Payments To Social Media Guru

Campaign Finance

Andrew was kind enough to include a quote from me in this piece on the blurry lines between campaign and organization in Trump’s FEC disclosures.

Election 2016: Donald Trump Campaign Discloses Only Small Payments To Social Media Guru