WASHINGTON - May 19 - The Federal Election Commission's decision last week not to regulate so-called 527 organizations -- political nonprofits that are collecting millions of dollars for this year's elections -- is expected to result in a proliferation of such groups.
Now the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics is making it easier to keep track of these groups as they are formed, and to monitor the latest filings of existing groups. The Center's Web site, OpenSecrets.org, features a list of 527 groups that have filed initial forms notifying the Internal Revenue Service of their existence. The list will be updated weekly as the IRS releases such information.
Named for the section of the tax code that governs them, 527s currently are dominated by Democratic-leaning organizations that are supportive of Sen. John Kerry's run for president. But following the FEC's decision, Republicans have announced plans to speed up the formation of 527 groups that back their candidates.
With the 2004 elections less than six months away, new Republican-leaning 527s are expected to emerge immediately to compete with their Democratic counterparts in raising and spending unlimited soft money contributions.
OpenSecrets.org also lists every 527 group that has filed a financial report in the past week. The information includes the period covered by the report and the total raised and spent during the period.
The Center also has posted the top individual contributors to 527 groups in the 2004 election cycle so far. Hollywood producer Steven Bing tops the list with $8.1 million, most of it given to Joint Victory Campaign 2004, a joint fundraising committee of the Democratic-leaning America Coming Together and the Media Fund.
Second on the list is Peter Lewis, chairman of auto insurer Progressive Corp., who has contributed nearly $8 million this cycle to America Coming Together, MoveOn.org, Joint Victory Campaign 2004 and the Marijuana Policy Project.
Behind Lewis is billionaire investor George Soros, who has sent more than $7.8 million to liberal 527s and has pledged to spend much more to defeat President Bush in November.
OpenSecrets.org includes financial information on 527s going back to January 2003, the beginning of the current election cycle. The information is updated weekly.
The site includes detailed figures on the top 527 groups, a breakdown of groups by industry and sector, a classification of expenditures by such groups and the top contributors by organization to 527s.
Also featured are profiles of the "major players" -- 527s and other nonprofits that are spending money to influence people's votes this election year. The Center is chronicling the major players' advertisements and other communications, many of which are aimed at voters in key "battleground" states that could determine which party controls the White House and Congress.
Contact the Center at 202-857-0044 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more detailed financial information on 527s, or with any questions about political spending by nonprofits.