501(c)4 disclosure bill still possible in Senate

A bill originally intended to force 501(c)4 groups to disclose the donors of money given to 527 groups may be introduced soon in the Senate. The bill, first discussed by Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, is now in the hands of Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, who says she is still working on the bill.

Carroll told the Colorado Independent that she had passed the bill concept over to Schwartz who still had not reached her five bill introduction limit. Last month Schwartz acknowledged that she was working on the bill and said it was currently undergoing a rewrite. While she said it was an important topic, Schwartz has been keeping a tight wrap on the the details of the legislation.

It is unclear if there have been substantial changes to the bill since leaving Carroll’s hands.

Carroll told the Colorado Independent in November that she was working on a bill to ensure that the names of those donating to 527s were known, whether an intermediary 501(c)4 “social welfare” group was used or not.

Donors can currently give to a 501(C)4 that in turn can give to a 527 political action committee. In these cases only the name of the 501(c)4 is registered as having contributed to the PAC.

“What has happened is they have basically been able to cloak the identity of who is really driving [a 527],” Carroll said.

“One of the things that we have seen out of this election cycle is … I am just going to use the word laundering,” Carroll said in November. “There were a lot of layers of C4s that were created for purely political purposes and then the C4 would donate to a 527.”

Schwartz was the target of 501(c)4 attack mailers during her recent reelection campaign–mailed out by the Western Tradition Partnership (WTP). The mailers featured Schwartz’s head on Donald Trump’s body.

The group is also associated with the 527 organization, Western Tradition Partnership Education Fund.

Federal law also allows 501(c)4s to take political action as long as only 50 percent of its total activities are for that purpose.

Donald Ferguson, WTP’s executive director, told the Colorado Independent in December that the group found the legislation to be an unconstitutional attack on free speech.

“This is simply an attempt by incumbent politicians to silence dissent and deny Coloradans their constitutionally guaranteed right to petition their elected officials,” Ferguson wrote in an e-mail.

It is unclear if or when the bill will be introduced in the Senate.

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