Political nonprofit organizations generally experience an
increase in donations during an election year, and are currently
drawing more dollars than ever. But the fund-raising success of
political nonprofits does not seem to be adversely affecting
contributions to charitable nonprofit organizations in Oklahoma.
Often called 527 organizations in reference to the section of the
Internal Revenue Code under which they are filed, political
nonprofit organizations are allowed to raise unlimited amounts of
money, claim tax-exempt status and spend their funds on just about
any election-related activity short of contributing directly to
federal candidates. They are permitted to give to state candidates,
party organizations and even other 527s, and may purchase broadcast
advertisements, mailings and political research. Nationwide, 527s
raised $76.8 million during the first few months of 2004.
Since August 2000, 527s have raised more than $960,000 from
donors listing an Oklahoma address, according to research conducted
by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based
nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Political nonprofits have also
given nearly $960,000 to entities listing an Oklahoma address during
the same period.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, based in
Washington, D.C., tops the list of 527s that have raised money in
Oklahoma, collecting more than $95,000 over the last few years.
Oklahoma state Sen. Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, serves on the
committee's board of directors.
The committee raised about $50,000 at one fund-raiser held in
Oklahoma in the spring of 2003, said Executive Director Michael
Davies. Oklahoma is always a state that's pretty closely divided in
both legislative chambers, said Davies. I think these guys
appreciated that there's a Democratic organization in Washington -
that had taken an interest in them, and they did a fund-raiser for
The Ironworkers Political Education Fund has raised $88,500 from
Oklahomans, and the Democratic Governors' Association has raised
The AFL-CIO COPE Treasury Fund has spent $243,000 in Oklahoma,
followed by the conservative political action committee ARENA PAC
with $152,400, the American Dental PAC Education Fund with $93,400,
and the National Association of Republican Woman with $68,500.
Most of the 20,000 or so 527s in existence nationwide are
registered in Washington, D.C., though there is at least one 527
registered in all but a dozen states. Only one 527 is registered in
Oklahoma: the New Leadership Fund, which is affiliated with former
Gov. Frank Keating, according to the Center for Public Integrity. No
activity has been reported for the New Leadership Fund since 2002.
Some members of Congress, such as Republicans Rep. Christopher
Shays of Connecticut and Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democrat
Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, have voiced their concerns that
527s circumvent the soft money restrictions put in place by new
campaign reform laws. In March, the Federal Election Commission
proposed a rule change that would reclassify 527s as political
committees, prohibiting them from raising money from corporations
(including nonprofit corporations) or unions, or using contributions
of more than $5,000 from an individual to pay for election-related