When a controversial nonprofit asked the IRS for tax-exempt status, it said it needed a speedy answer or its biggest donor would yank a promised $300,000 donation. The IRS complied with quick approval, and the Western Tradition Partnership went on to wage a successful fight against campaign-finance regulations, especially in Montana. It took advantage of its new status to solicit unlimited contributions without having to disclose its backers in ads. One little snag, uncovered by ProPublica and Frontline: That supposed $300,000 donor, furniture retailer Jacob Jabs, had never heard of the group.
"I think they just grabbed my name out of a hat to forward their agenda," he says. "I know nothing about the group, never heard of them, never have heard of them until the last few days, and I did not, absolutely did not, commit $300,000 to start this company." A WTP official says the group doesn't discuss donors. The incident, along with stolen documents found in a meth house (!), "offer a rare look into the inner workings of dark money groups," says ProPublica. Read the full piece here. (Read more Western Tradition Partnership stories.)