IRS revokes dark money group Americans for Job Security’s tax exempt status

This week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it revoked the dark money group Americans for Job Security’s tax exempt status. The announcement followed a complaint from Issue One and the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) against the organization.

Americans for Job Security was a tax-exempt “business league” that spent tens of millions of dollars influencing elections while keeping its donors secret, but failed to file its tax returns for the past three years. Issue One and CLC’s complaint called on the agency to enforce penalties against Americans for Job Security for failing to file multiple years of mandatory returns.

“The IRS should continue to hold accountable groups that abuse the privilege of their tax-exempt status,” said Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee. “This IRS action should serve as a warning to other dark money organizations on the left and right who seek to spend money in elections and then decline to follow-up on their obligations with the proper oversight authorities.”

“For years, Americans for Job Security abused its tax-exempt status to allow donors to secretly influence elections,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal reform program at CLC. “Although the IRS penalized Americans for Job Security for failing to file its tax returns, rather than for operating as a dark money political committee, it is gratifying to see that there are at least some consequences for groups that evade transparency requirements.”

The IRS automatically revoked Americans for Job Security’s tax exempts status for failing to file three years of consecutive mandatory returns in March 2018. The agency publicly announced their revocation this week. 

Founded in 1997, Americans for Job Security was among the earliest political “dark money” groups — so-called because they do not publicly disclose their donors, unlike political action committees, super PACs, candidates and parties, which do.

A tax-exempt business league under section 501(c)(6) of the tax code, Americans for Job Security spent more than $20 million in political advertising in the two election cycles following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.

In July 2016, the Federal Election Commission fined Americans for Job Security $43,000 after the agency concluded that the group should have disclosed a nonprofit known as the Center to Protect Patient Rights, then associated with the political network of billionaires Charles and David Koch, as a donor behind some of its political expenditures in 2010.

In addition to its own political spending, Americans for Job Security also played a prominent role in funneling tens of millions of dollars to two ballot measure fights in California during the 2012 election — part of a scheme that the California Fair Political Practices Commission later concluded was designed to hide the identities of the actual donors supporting the ballot measure efforts.

Read the original complaint from Issue One and the Campaign Legal Center here.