In the world of campaign finance, this is becoming a familiar story: A nonprofit group is launched by individuals with political connections; has no physical office, volunteers or employees; and spends much of its money on political consultants, some of whom are linked to the operatives running the group.
Also, it does little or no spending on what might be called social welfare — a requirement of the nonprofit 501(c)(4) tax status it claims. IRS rules require (c)(4) groups, which don’t have to disclose the names of their donors, to keep political work to under 50 percent of their activity.
Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, though, stands apart from most other dark money groups in a couple of ways. The first: its dedication to backing just one candidate, former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, a Republican who made an ultimately failed 2014 bid for a U.S. Senate seat.
OCF told the IRS that it had spent $1.4 million boosting Shannon, but totals reported elsewhere in the group’s annual tax filings show that the sum is likely much higher, possibly even the entirety of the group’s $2.1 million in outlays. At a minimum, OCF’s political support came close to matching the $1.9 million that Shannon’s own campaign spent leading up to his primary.
The other twist? OCF owned up to spending too large a share of its resources on politics — and promised to do better next time around. In effect, it gave the IRS a dark money IOU.