Karl Rove backed group secretly gave millions to elect Thom Tillis
Controversy was sparked when an ethics complaint was levied against Dallas Woodhouse and his former group Carolina Rising for spending nearly 100% of their operating budget on ads supporting now Sen. Tillis. At the time the source of the donations was secret, but now we know that the nearly $5M came almost entirely from Karl Rove's group Crossroads GPS.
Some of the nonprofit groups involved in the North Carolina race appear to have pushed the limits of what is allowed by law.
Perhaps the starkest example is Carolina Rising, a nonprofit formed in the spring of the election year by Dallas Woodhouse, who is now executive director of the state's Republican Party. Tax filings show his group spent $4.7 million on Tillis-boosting ads, nearly every penny of its budget.
Woodhouse seemed to wipe away any veneer that his group had a "social welfare" mission when he talked to a television reporter at an election night party.
On live TV, the reporter said to Woodhouse, "You just mentioned you spent a whole lot of money to get (Tillis) elected, right?" Woodhouse replied, "$4.7 million. We did it."
The political watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had complained to the Internal Revenue Service that Carolina Rising abused its nonprofit status.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Woodhouse said Carolina Rising's activities were "100 percent within the law."
Tax documents made public on Tuesday show that Carolina Rising received almost all its money from another nonprofit, Crossroads GPS. Nonprofits must publicly disclose when they give money to other nonprofits.
Crossroads was co-founded by Karl Rove, a strategist for former President George W. Bush. Ian Prior, a spokesman for Crossroads, said Tuesday in a statement that he is "confident based on our written agreements with each one of those nonprofit organizations that our grants were used for the nonpolitical purposes that they were given."
While the new tax documents show that Crossroads gave the money to Carolina Rising, they do not reveal who gave the money to Crossroads.
Bob Hall, a campaign finance reform advocate with Democracy North Carolina, said the practice of anonymous donors hiding behind nonprofit groups to back candidates "all smells terrible."
"That's the system that we have come to," Hall said, "where the superwealthy and large corporations can believe that they can buy positions in Congress and statehouses."
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