ProPublica

Did the Dark Money Group that Spurred a Landmark Ruling Mislead the IRS?

A western nonprofit that played a key role in freeing corporate spending on elections nationwide appears to have misled the IRS when it applied for the tax-exempt status that shields its donors from being publicly disclosed.
Documents obtained by ProPublica and Frontline show that Western Tradition Partnership, now known as American Tradition Partnership, said it would not attempt to sway elections when it asked the IRS to recognize it as a tax-exempt social welfare organization in late 2008.
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Big Electric Companies Behind ‘Grassroots’ Ad Campaign in Florida

Since August, a dark money group called Defend My Dividend has spent nearly $90,000 running ads on South Florida TV stations warning seniors about a looming increase in the tax rate on dividends.
"You worked hard, saved for retirement, and dividends are a big part of it," says one of the ads, which Defend My Dividend has posted on YouTube. "But if President Obama and Congress don't act this year, tax rates on dividends will spike, almost tripling in some cases." Time is running out, the ad intones, as phone numbers for Obama and Congress appear on the screen.
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Informants: Pawns in the War on Drugs

In the government's war on drugs, confidential informants are the foot soldiers — an inexpensive (and often unregulated) way to outsource the work of undercover cops. But when first-time offenders, even juveniles, are recruited for these high-risk operations, reporter Sarah Stillman found the consequences sometimes proved fatal.
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Free the Files Volunteers Unlock $160 Million in Ad Buys in First Week

In the seven days since we rebooted Free The Files, nearly 350 people have “freed” a political ad contract from the Federal Communications Commission database, unlocking more than $160 million in ad spending by 325 groups in more than 30 swing markets.
Our top contributor alone has freed an astounding 1,300 files. What is becoming of all thi...
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An In-Depth Look At Mitt Romney’s Taxes

With the documents Mitt Romney released recently, we know a bit more about his taxes.
We know, for instance, that Romney paid a rate of 14.1 percent on $13.7 million in income on his 2011 tax return, which he achieved by purposely overpaying. Though he was entitled to deduct $4 million in charitable contributions, Romney deducted only $2.25 million to keep his tax rate above 13 percent.
But there’s still a lot we don’t know. “I think most of the major questions we had before [last Friday] are still out there,” said Brian Galle, a tax law professor at Boston College.
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Free the Files: Help Reveal Dark Money in the Election

Outside groups are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the coming elections—money that has long been hard to track.
This summer, the Federal Communications Commission ordered TV stations to pull back the curtain a bit, requiring them to publish online detailed records of political ad buys. So far the rule only covers the top 50 markets, and it's impossible to search these files by candidate or political group—meaning it’s impossible to get a full picture of the spending.
We want to change that.
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Inspector General's Report: Freddie Mac Didn’t Set Out to Profit from Homeowners Trapped in High-Rate Mortgages

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac did not keep homeowners trapped in high-interest loans in order to boost profits on billions of dollars’ worth of complex financial bets it had made. That’s the conclusion reached in a report released today by the inspector general that oversees the agency in charge of Freddie Mac.
Last January, ProPublica and NPR reported that Freddie had dramatically expanded its holdings of mortgage-backed securities that would profit if homeowners stayed in their existing high-interest-rate loans. At the same time, the company had taken steps that made it harder for homeowners to refinance at lower interest rates. Our report stated that there was no evidence of a coordinated attempt to bet against homeowners’ ability to refinance. The inspector general’s report concludes that there was none.
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