Nonprofit advocacy groups allow the wealthy to influence elections without revealing themselves, watchdogs claim
September 24, 2010: Alaskans grew suspicious two years ago when a national organization called Americans for Job Security showed up and spent $1.6 million pushing a referendum to restrict development of a gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.
It seemed an oddly parochial fight for a pro-business group based in the Washington suburbs that had spent tens of millions of dollars since the late 1990s roughing up Democrats with negative advertisements around election time.
But after the mine’s supporters filed a complaint with the state, it became clear that what was depicted as grass-roots opposition was something else entirely: Americans for Job Security, investigators found, had helped create the illusion of a popular upwelling to shield the identity of a local financier who paid for most of the referendum campaign.
More broadly, they said, far from being a national movement advocating a “pro-paycheck message,” the group is actually a front for a coterie of political operatives, devised to sidestep campaign disclosure rules.
“Americans for Job Security has no purpose other than to cover various money trails all over the country,” the staff of the Alaska Public Offices Commission said in a report last year.