Wealthy Americans may get a new conduit for political money in the tax overhaul bill now being reconciled on Capitol Hill.
A small provision in the House version of the bill would let big donors secretly give unlimited amounts to independent political groups — and write off the contributions as charitable gifts.
"You not only get to help that candidate with a big contribution, it's not going to be publicized and you're going to be able to take a tax deduction on top of it," said Michael Franz, a political scientist, who analyzes political advertising with the Wesleyan Media Project.
The change would echo — or possibly dwarf — the influx of unregulated, undisclosed campaign money brought about by two Supreme Court decisions over the past decade. Those rulings permitted unlimited contributions to tax-exempt "social welfare" groups engaging in politics. The groups operate under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code and don't disclose their donors.
The conservative Koch brothers network and other ideological warriors, on both sides, deploy social welfare groups. Their TV ads tend to be negative, even caustic, helping to make campaigns more divisive.