According to Tone Madison, CRG is a 501(c)4 organization. The IRS website states that 501(c)4 groups are social welfare nonprofits, and can therefore lobby and politically campaign, as long as it is for the purpose of “social welfare.” These groups do not have to disclose the sources of their funding. Those that do not are known as dark money groups. Though CRG posted its website on their billboards, visiting the website itself sheds no light on the actual organization. Instead, one can find pictures and promotional blurbs for the three local leaders the organization claims to support: Carter, Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, and Charles Myadze. Because dark money groups do not reveal their donors, it is extremely difficult for researchers, journalists and citizens to understand where the group’s money is from, University of Wisconsin political science professor Eleanor Powell said.
“I am aware of the billboard, yes,” Carter said. “I do not know the organization.” A recipient of the CRG’s “thanks,” Ald. Sheri Carter, District 14, said she is not affiliated with the group and was previously unaware of their existence.
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“It can be because they don’t want any blowback for themselves or for their business colleagues,” Powell said. “There are also potentially more nefarious reasons you might want to hide your donations. If somebody had a scandal-tainted past, that’s not helpful to their candidate. Or if they’re people who aren’t allowed to donate, like foreign companies.” Upon inquiry, Adams Outdoor Advertising — the company which owns the billboards CRG is renting — shared CRG’s Madison address, 1360 Regent Street. But when visited, it becomes clear the address only belongs to a UPS P.O. box. Forensic analysis of slur used in city council Zoom meeting yields inconclusive resultsFollowing an investigation into the use of a gender-based profanity by a male voice at a Madison Common Council meeting Read…
Powell said there are multiple reasons why a group might want to hide their donors. Sometimes the political stance of a dark money group is obvious — the NRA and Planned Parenthood are both 501(c)4 organizations, according to Open Secrets. In other instances, organizations will give themselves obscure names to mask their politics, UW journalism professor Michael Wagner said.
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