September 30, 2010; Source: Washington Post |In this opinion blog on the Washington Post website, journalist for the Old Dominion Watchdog, Paige Winfield Cunningham writes that Democrats have gotten an assist from a Roanoke-based nonprofit, Total Action Against Poverty.

In a piece of reporting Cunningham did for the Watchdog she found that the group had allowed rallies for then presidential candidate Barack Obama, Virginia Delegate Onzlee Ware and former Delegate Brian Moran to be held at the Dumas Center—a cultural center owned by the group. A board member resigned from TAP’s board in June and filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service.

As we know, according to IRS code, “all section 501(c)3 organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

The 44-year-old nonprofit runs Head Start school readiness programs and housing and transitional programs for low-income families and individuals.

According to the Watchdog the ex-board member also accuses TAP of “allowing employees to work at polls during work hours, conducting political activities using campaign funds donated by Ware and allowing staffers for Obama’s presidential campaign to use more office space than his campaign had paid to rent in a TAP-owned building.”

I’m glad that the Watchdog and other papers out there are holding public officials accountable and watching where the money in politics goes. In a perverse way, I love these kinds of stories. That said, there are winners and losers in politics and so keeping score is part of putting this kind of valuable reporting in context.

If you’re keeping score, the Republicans are kicking butt.

The growing popularity of nonprofit groups diving into the political is increasingly worrisome among those mindful of the influence of money on politics.

One way to track political spending is by following political advertising. According to the New York Times, “Almost all of the biggest players among third-party groups, in terms of buying television time in House and Senate races since August, have been 501(c) organizations, and their purchases have heavily favored Republicans, according to data from Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising.

See a graphic of the yawning gap here.

Interest groups and corporations are now emboldened than ever to influence political campaigns since the Supreme Court decided Citizens United. Cunningham, writing for the Post, has it exactly right when she says, this newfound power “should give organizations such as TAP even more reason to make sure they play by the rules.”—Aaron Lester