October 26, 2010; Source: New York Daily News | Lots of former and not-so-former politicians have popped up recently heading “nonprofits” engaged in partisan election activities, notably American Crossroads, created by the ubiquitous Karl Rove and the American Action Network headed by former Minnesota Republican senator Norm Coleman (with former Virginia Republican senator George Allen on its board).

The press describes these 501(c)(4)s that funnel unrestricted corporate money into political campaigns as nonprofits, which legally they are. In practice, however, they’re shills for unprecedented amounts of special interest money flowing into political campaigns, largely in support of conservative Republican candidates.

Former New York Governor George Pataki, a lackluster Republican politician whose blandness makes Harry Reid look like Ozzy Osbourne, has been reborn as the head of one of these “nonprofits,” Revere America, which has pumped more than $2 million into ads attacking “Obamacare” Democrats running for reelection largely in Upstate New York and New England.

As a 501(c)(4), Revere America doesn’t have to disclose the names of its donors nor the specific amounts of their donations. Though he claims to support public disclosure of private funding in political campaigns, Pataki doesn’t support disclosure as applied to his Revere America group. In explanation, he adopts a long-held argument used for many years by the left to defend nonprofit confidentiality, charging that unnamed “Democratic activists” have tried “to harass people whose names have been disclosed.” In other words, confidentiality, which used to be defended as necessary to protect donors to liberal causes from conservative harassment, is now necessary to protect conservative funders from retributions from liberals.

The arguments for donor confidentiality are ringing more hollow each time someone like Rove, Coleman, or now Pataki squawks about harassment. If nonprofits are going to be used as conduits for unrestricted corporate donations to political attack ads, it’s time to get rid of the notion that nonprofits should be used as stalking horses for corporate special interest money.—Rick Cohen