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September 11, 2014

Opinion: 501(c)(4)s Are the New Smoke-Filled Rooms

The emergence of nonprofit "social-welfare" groups as electioneering tools is tilting the political playing field toward wealthy interests, "widening the gap between the rich people who control campaign financing and the economically anxious voters targeted by their ads," a New York Times columnist writes.

Thomas B. Edsall notes the hundreds of millions of dollars that flow through Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and Charles and David Koch's network of conservative organizations, which are not required to divulge their donors. Citing tax and regulatory filings, he questions whether such groups and others they support are exceeding federal rules for 501(c)(4) entities on funding explicitly partisan political activity.

Weak oversight and court decisions eliminating restrictions on political giving have "disenfranchised ordinary voters" and "created a system of campaign finance dominated by those with vast fortunes answerable to no one but themselves," Mr. Edsall writes.