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527s: Advocacy Group Spending

Don't just blame political candidates for all the glossy flyers cluttering your mailbox, for the in-your-face television and radio advertisements and calls at home that interrupt your dinner. Chances are, much of that electioneering is being paid for by one of an untold number of advocacy groups.

These groups, formed under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, primarily were involved in issue advocacy and weren't permitted to tell the public explicitly to elect or defeat a particular candidate – until the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010. Now, they may engage in the full range of political activity, including asking the public to vote for or against a would-be officeholder. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which ran "issue ads" critical of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's Vietnam War record in 2004, was one of the more well-known 527 groups in the pre-Citizens United years. Some organizations, including labor unions, use 527 accounts to support or oppose state and local candidates and contribute to other committees.

In addition, some large, national party-connected groups are formed as 527s, such as the Republican State Leadership Committee and the Democratic Governors Association.

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527 Party/Ideology Summary

Cycle All 527 Organizations Federally Focused
All Organizations
Receipts
All Organizations
Expenses
# 527s All Organizations
Receipts
All Organizations
Expenses
# 527s
2004$598,978,305$762,095,432543$431,348,147$549,534,791223
2006$384,348,650$497,236,011616$162,975,069$232,332,392258
2008$493,034,968$602,450,290596$242,171,429$282,595,964274
2010$546,825,435$800,683,554683$201,351,442$242,141,777331
2012$544,479,762$663,692,743655$148,790,309$177,637,528298
2014$703,244,860$915,320,795580$196,292,050$217,881,341249
2016$743,216,037$822,890,493600$268,760,643$256,517,499262
2018$1,094,394,445$1,166,875,815657$389,165,139$405,714,380309

* To avoid double-counting, these figures do NOT include fundraising by Joint Victory Campaign 2004, a joint fund-raising committee

527 Party/Ideology Split

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Top Money

Top 5 Organizations Receiving Money
See the full list
Committee2018 Receipts
ActBlue$92,101,947
EMILY's List$28,529,793
Service Employees International Union$27,465,223
Citizens United$18,526,147
American Federation of Teachers$17,927,893
Top 5 Organizations Giving Money
See the full list
Organization2018 Contributions
Service Employees International Union$18,992,658
American Federation of Teachers$18,728,746
Laborers Union$8,162,839
Carpenters & Joiners Union$6,394,443
Karla Jurvetson MD$5,037,465
Top 5 Individuals Giving Money
See the full list
Contributor2018 Contributions
Lewis, Daniel R. & Jan (Coral Gables, FL)$1,500,000
Soros, George (New York, NY)$1,350,000
Henry P. van Ameringen (New York, NY)$1,111,000
Ackerman, Peter (Washington, DC)$1,093,000
Eychaner, Fred (Chicago, IL)$1,000,000

This data is based on records released by the Internal Revenue Service on Wednesday, April 03, 2019.

Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics. For permission to reprint for commercial uses, such as textbooks, contact the Center: info@crp.org

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