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Group offers $25,000 reward for exposing secret corporate giving

March 12, 2012|By Matea Gold
  • Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, corporations and labor unions have been able to spend unlimited amounts of money on political activity.
Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, corporations… (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg )

Reporting from Washington — Got the goods on a secret donation your company is making to a politically active group? You could make a pretty penny.

A union-backed organization is offering a $25,000 reward to the first employee who comes forward with “documentary evidence” that a company is secretly funding a nonprofit organization active in the 2012 campaign.

The offer by Americans United for Change came as part of a new campaign announced Monday by a coalition of liberal and campaign finance reform groups that are pressuring corporations not to spend money on politics.

The organizations – which include Common Cause, Public Citizen, Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, the Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org and Occupy Wall Street – unveiled an array of tactics they plan to use to keep corporate money out of this year’s campaign, including consumer boycotts and shareholder initiatives.

But by far the most unusual approach was the whistleblower reward being offered by Americans United for Change.

"Any corporate CEO who thinks he can keep a donation secret in the digital age I think is just dead wrong," said Robert Creamer, a consultant for the organization.

The whistleblower must provide credible evidence that a corporation has made or plans to make a donation to a 501(c)4 social welfare group, Creamer said. It is unclear how employees could provide such proof without turning over proprietary financial information.

But Creamer said such evidence could be obtained without violating internal confidentiality rules. “People want to weigh whether they have other obligations legally they need to abide by,” he said.

“Bottom line is, some of these corporations have such massive amount of profit, if they were to get engaged politically, they could swamp ordinary Americans,” he added.

Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, corporations and labor unions have been able to spend unlimited amounts of money on political activity. Since then, some corporations have given money to “super PACs,” independent political organizations that can raise unlimited amounts of money. But it is likely that substantially more corporate money is going to 501(c)4 social welfare groups, which can do a limited amount of political activity but do not have to disclose their donors.

Americans United for Change is itself a 501(c)4 that does not have to disclose its donors. Creamer said it is funded by unions such as the SEIU and American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, as well as individual donors, and does not receive corporate money.

matea.gold@latimes.com

Original source: Group offers $25,000 reward for exposing secret corporate giving

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