Shady Secrecy Shrouds Conservative PAC Pouring Money Into State Races
A pair of Ohio lawmakers are waging legal battles against a secretive super PAC pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars in dark money into a handful of statehouse contests around the country. Documentation obtained exclusively by PAY DIRT sheds new light on how the group’s sole funder has attempted to navigate federal tax and election laws in an effort to keep the sources of that money secret.
The Conservative Alliance PAC (CAPAC) is currently facing lawsuits from Ohio state representative Larry Householder, the statehouse’s former speaker, and Jim Trakas, a candidate for the state’s sixth house district. Both say they were defamed by CAPAC, charges the group denies. Householder’s lawsuit remains in Perry County, Ohio, while Trakas’s has been moved to a federal court in the state. Both lawsuits also name a number John Does as defendants, since it’s not entirely clear who is behind the group. CAPAC’s address is a P.O. box in Alexandria, Virginia, and its treasurer is Chris Marston, a Virginia election compliance attorney who is popular among conservative dark money-backed political groups.
The group also told the IRS that it planned to devote 60% of its budget to “public education” activities, including “press releases, press conferences, letters to the editor, websites, email, social media, television, radio, Internet advertising and direct mail and events.” But there’s no evidence that it’s done any of that. Those facts raise some serious red flags, according to ethics watchdogs. “It appears that CAPAC is a front to launder dark money from Prosperity Alliance into” political contests, wrote Brendan Fischer, the director of federal and FEC reform programs at the Campaign Legal Center.
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