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October 21, 2015

Campaign Watchdog Targets Nonprofit's Ads Featuring Rubio

A campaign-finance watchdog group filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday over a 501(c)(4) organization's advertisements prominently featuring Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, The Wall Street Journal reports. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, alleges that the Conservative Solutions Project's ads cross the line from promoting issue positions to promoting a candidate, in violation of I.R.S. regulations on nonprofit politicking.

The group, founded in January 2014, shares a name and staffers with a super PAC that is backing Mr. Rubio, but unlike the PAC it is not required to disclose its donors. The Associated Press reported earlier this month the organization has spent more than $8 million on broadcast spots that highlight the Florida senator's policy positions and excerpt his speeches.

"This is a new dark money strategy," CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz said. Jeff Sadosky, a spokesman for the Conservative Solutions Project, said his group is permissibly "advocating for a conservative agenda" and accused CREW of "unabashed partisanship."

CREW is also seeking an IRS review of Carolina Rising, a 501(c)(4) group that spent millions of dollars on ads during last year's midterm elections, reports The Charlotte Observer. The watchdog contends Carolina Rising's focus was supporting Republican Thom Tillis's successful Senate run in North Carolina. A former president of the group said its operations were "fully reviewed by the best legal minds in the business" and found to be compliant with the law and IRS rules.