Politics & Government

Watchdog group files IRS complaint about Tillis backer

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. AP

A Washington watchdog group has filed a complaint with the IRS contending a nonprofit group backing U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., violated tax law by posing as a social welfare organization.

Carolina Rising spent millions of dollars on television commercials and other electronic ads in support of Tillis’s 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate, according to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. CREW argues in its complaint filed Tuesday that Carolina Rising violated section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which says nonprofits must "primarily engaged in social welfare activity,” which does not include participation in political campaigns. Tillis could not be immediately reached for comment.

These groups provide a vehicle for donors to make unlimited secret contributions to benefit candidates and that is not permitted under the law.

Noah Bookbinder, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics

“While the public is kept in the dark, the candidate or official almost certainly knows who is making these often-large contributions,” Noah Bookbinder, CREW’s executive director said in a statement. “The IRS must take forceful action to enforce the law and stop [Carolina Rising] from abusing their tax-exempt status and to prevent other organizations from following their lead.”

CREW cited an interview by Carolina Rising’s then-president Dallas Woodhouse allegedly admitting in a local news interview to spending millions to get Tillis elected.

Woodhouse, who is no longer with Carolina Rising, described the complaint as a “baseless political stunt” by a “far-left organization.”

These organizations file these worthless complaints as publicity stunts, based on what they wish the law was, not what it is.

Dallas Woodhouse, former president of Carolina Rising

“While I normally don't comment on baseless political stunts, Carolina Rising operations were always fully reviewed by the by the best legal minds in the business and was 100 percent compliant within the law and IRS Code” said Woodhouse. “These organizations file these worthless complaints as publicity stunts, based on what they wish the law was, not what it is.”

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