Dem Dark Money Group Broke Law With Failure to Report Spending, Watchdog Says

Billboard attacking Republican Trey Hollingsworth / FACT
January 27, 2021

A left-wing dark money group formed in the final weeks of last year's election cycle to attack an Indiana Republican congressman broke federal law by failing to disclose its spending, according to a new legal complaint filed Wednesday by a government watchdog.

Take Back The 9th Inc., formed on October 1, 2020, as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, immediately began attacking incumbent Republican congressman Trey Hollingsworth without disclosing any activity to the Federal Election Commission, according to the complaint from the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). The complaint points to the committee’s creation of a website, fundraising activity, and at least five billboards in the district, all calling for residents to "vote out" Hollingsworth, as costly examples of political activity that weren’t disclosed as required.

FACT's complaint calls on the FEC to open an investigation into the group for its failure to disclose spending on election activity. Federal regulations require outside groups to report independent expenditures, which are defined by the FEC as expenses spent on "communication expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate." Despite its expenditures on direct political activity against Hollingsworth, the organization did not file with the FEC, according to the agency's database of spending in the race.

Kendra Arnold, FACT's executive director, told the Washington Free Beacon that the complaint will also be sent to the IRS in hopes that the group has its nonprofit status revoked. "If this goes unchecked it would allow people to anonymously influence our political process all while receiving undeserved tax benefits," Arnold said.

The ads and billboards put up by Take Back The 9th overtly advocate the defeat of Hollingsworth, who went on to defeat his Democratic challenger Andy Ruff by over 25 percentage points. Though nonprofits may have some political activity, it cannot be the sole purpose of the group, according to the complaint.

"In this case, not only did the organization form immediately before an election, but its only known public activity was direct opposition to a named candidate," the complaint states. "The formation of the organization as a 'social welfare' organization and the failure to disclose any information about its political spending with the FEC indicates its primary motivation was to engage in political activity without disclosing required information."

Attempts to reach Take Back The 9th were unsuccessful. The group, which attacks big money and corruption on its website, lists no contact information. The listed legal representative on the filing, Indiana resident Mimi Oluwafemi, also could not be reached.

Published under: Dark Money