Previously: Campaign Finance: department of redundancy department (July 26, 2012)
Now, five days later:
MEDA Urges Transparency for Missouri Voters Leading up to the Primary Election
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., July 31, 2012 – Today the Missouri Energy Development Association (MEDA) filed formal complaints with the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide Missouri voters with transparency leading up to the Primary Election next Tuesday, August 7th. The complaints cite lack of proper disclosure and violation of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status by Missourians Against Higher Utility Rates (MAHUR) and Missourians For Low Energy Rates (MLEC) respectively. MEDA urges the MEC and the IRS to take swift action to protect Missouri voters from organizations that may not be properly following state and federal guidelines with just a week to go before Missouri’s Primary Election.
“It is unfortunate if a business with special utility rates who is headquartered out-of-state, like Noranda Aluminum, Inc. and potentially others has utilized organizations like MAHUR and MLEC to pass-through funding into three contested Senate Primary Election races without proper disclosure, possibly violating campaign finance laws and IRS regulations,” said Trey Davis, president of MEDA. “The MEC and IRS should act quickly to provide Missouri voters with the same kind of transparency that other similar organizations operating in the state adhere to on a regular basis.”
On July 23, 2012, just four days after the “tax-exempt” MLEC was formed, MLEC contributed $275,000 to the recently dormant political committee MAHUR. Prior to July of 2012, MAHUR had reported no contributions or candidate expenditures during the 2011-2012 election cycle. According to MLEC’s Articles of Incorporation filed on July 19, 2012 with the Missouri Secretary of State by an employee of a law firm that also directly employs attorneys and lobbyists who represent Noranda and others, MLEC was formed a mere four days prior to its contribution to MAHUR. On the same day MLEC made its $275,000 contribution, July 23, 2012, MAHUR cut four very significant checks to out-of-state consulting firms in Connecticut, Florida, and Washington, DC for “Voter Education” per MEC filings. Ironically, one firm’s tag line on their website reads, “The Only Junk Mail You’ll Ever Read…Twice.”
Missouri law requires that political committees such as MAHUR report the identity of contributors and disclose the persons responsible for funding political advertising on behalf of the committee. Missouri law also requires that a corporation who “accepts contributions or makes expenditures for the primary or incidental purpose of influencing or attempting to influence the action of voters for or against the nomination or election to public office of one or more candidates” must file a Statement of Organization and register with the MEC as a committee. The hurried creation and funding of MLEC (a so-called “tax-exempt” corporation), combined with its immediate transfer of $275,000 to MAHUR and day-of payments to out-of-state consultants, suggests an attempt to evade these disclosure requirements, and also, a possible violation of IRS regulations providing that tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations may not be “primarily” engaged in express advocacy for or against candidates for public office.
To further shed light on this issue, according to MEC filings, Noranda has contributed more than $325,000 directly to Missouri legislators since 2011. That does not include what may have been contributed through such organizations as MLEC and MAHUR. Not only is MEDA advocating for proper disclosure, but even outgoing Sen. Jason Crowell, a Noranda supported public official, was quoted in an interview with the SEMO Times yesterday, “I think that if someone establishes a non-profit, and it is tax exempt and enjoys those benefits, then I think it abundantly fair to say that if you are going to spend on influencing the political process, then where are you getting the revenue to do this?” He continues, “Is it coming from a legitimate business, or is it a shell game from some individual who wants kept his activity secret? Be a man and stand up.”
“It is crucial that Missouri voters be protected from interests that choose not to follow state and federal guidelines to influence elections in three contested Senate Primary Election races. MEDA stands up for Missourian’s and they have a right to transparency…they have a right to the truth,” said Davis.
…Transparency? We ain’t got no transparency. We don’t need no transparency. I don’t have to show you any stinking transparency…