A non-profit organization that raised $22 million for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s failed presidential bid could be a two-man show that went a little too heavy on its support for the Florida Republian’s campaign, according to a report on Open Secrets Blog.
Conservative Solutions Project, a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, brought in over 90 percent of its funds from one or possibly two anonymous donors according to tax documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics show.
Of the $22 million raised, $20.5 million came in through two anonymous donations, one for $13.5 million in 2014 and another for $7 million in 2015. Social welfare organizations aren’t required to disclose donor information, so it is unclear whether the two multi-million dollar contributions came from the same source.
The bulk of the money raised was spent on ads and campaign research to boost Rubio’s presidential bid, and it appears that little if any money was doled out for activities that could be deemed “social welfare.”
The nomenclature of “Conservative Solutions Project” is also strikingly similar to Rubio’s own political committee, “Conservative Solutions PAC,” and the web only gets more tangled from there.
Both CSPs, along with the Rubio campaign and the Rubio Victory Joint Fundraising Committee passed money around to largely the same people during the course of the Florida Republican’s presidential campaign.
Team Rubio didn’t deny the close relationship between the two groups when asked about it in 2015.
“Absolutely, the two groups are related,” said Jeff Sadosky in an interview with National Journal. “But they are separate and distinct entities. One is focused on supporting Marco Rubio’s potential presidential campaign, and one is focused on issue education.”
Sadosky’s “issue education” frame may be a little misleading, though, since the bulk of the ads run by the social welfare group were shining a spotlight on Rubio’s positions on taxes and national security. And since the ads were more than 60 days before an election, none of them had to be reported to the FEC.
That also runs afoul of non-profit rules, which outlaw groups that primarily benefit one person. The IRS rarely pursues such cases, but if they did a former head of the IRS exempt organizations division said investigators “would probably say there’s an overwhelming private benefit to its activities” as well as possible campaign intervention “depending on if the messages got close to ‘vote for’ or ‘vote against’” in substance.