It's called dark money. Unlimited cash that flows into Political Action Committees linked to candidates.
State and federal laws protect voters by making PAC organizers disclose who is donating that money and how they spend it.
But a FOX 5 I-Team investigation found one PAC tied to an Atlanta mayoral candidate raised money before applying for IRS tax exempt status and now argues it doesn't have to report is donors and spending.
The PAC is Ceasar Mitchell's leadership PAC, AtlantaNEXT. We began following Atlanta NEXT fundraising last year. We found the PAC raising money at a high dollar golf tournament, with $5000 sponsorships. We also found AtlantaNEXT sponsored events across the country, from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, snazzy events at plush hotels, restaurants, and private homes.
Following our report, the State Ethics commission filed a complaint against Mr. Mitchell and his PAC. Mr. Mitchell denied any wrongdoing and that case is still pending.
The FOX 5 I-Team began examining federal tax laws pertaining to Georgia PACS, like AtlantaNEXT. We found Ceasar Mitchell's leadership PAC raised money for more than a year and a half without registering for tax exempt status by the IRS. They registered with the IRS the same day we emailed a question asking why they hadn't requested tax exempt status.
Brinkley Serkedakis, director of government watchdog Common Cause told us, “If they were in deed raising money as a PAC and not being registered with the IRS, that is very troubling. And, potentially anybody in that situation would not be in compliance with the law.”
AtlantaNEXT says it registered properly and is in compliance with all state and federal laws.
IRS rules require a PAC to report its contributions and spending for the public to view. IRS rules exempt a PAC if it files similar reports at the state level. AtlantaNEXT claims it is exempt. But, AtlantaNEXT doesn't file any reports because of a state exemption. So, voters have no way of knowing who is supporting Mr. Mitchell's PAC and how the PAC spends its money.