Complaint alleges black money nonprofit supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Bridget Barton violated federal tax law

A black money group supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Bridget Barton is facing the possibility of a federal investigation after a political consultant for a contender in the gubernatorial race filed complaints alleging the group violated US tax law.

Trey Rosser, campaign manager for Republican candidate Christine Drazan, on Wednesday sent letters to the IRS, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Oregon Department of Justice and the Oregon Secretary of State alleging that the Oregon Pathfinder could have spent more than the allowed amount on a nonprofit political organization to directly influence an election.

The lawsuit may be dismissed, as nonprofits that do not disclose their donors can spend up to 49% of their money on political campaigns – such as the Barton-linked nonprofit the may have done – and documents listing her as the leader of the group may be out of date.

In the past, Oregon Pathfinder has spent about $500,000 a year, which means it could direct $200,000 to Barton, as it did in donations spread over 2021 and 2022, without breaking the 50% rule. .

Barton served as president of the nonprofit political group Oregon Pathfinder until last summer and is still listed in Oregon society records as the nonprofit’s 501(c) secretary. 4. Oregon Pathfinder is Barton’s biggest donor and has given his campaign a total of $200,000, according to state campaign fundraising records. Its status as an association enables it to keep its political donors secret.

Barton’s campaign spokeswoman JulieAnna Giannini said the Oregon society filing listing Barton as secretary of the Oregon Pathfinder was outdated and incorrect.

Rosser also alleged that Oregon Pathfinder could have illegally coordinated with Barton’s campaign, which is limited to federal elections but not Oregon races. The only requirement in Oregon is that candidates and donors disclose all of their transactions to the state.

Rosser highlighted the significant amount of financial support Oregon Pathfinder gave Barton in his letters to law enforcement and regulators. “We also note that Bridget Barton for Oregon PAC and Oregon Pathfinder currently share office space,” Rosser wrote.

He filed the lawsuit shortly after Barton released a new ad attacking Drazan for not commenting on the expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling against abortion rights and for voting, along with everyone else. House Republicans in attendance, for a 2021 bipartisan bill requiring free menstrual products in all public school restrooms. It’s unclear how the attack benefits Barton with days to go until the May 17 election deadline, as a recent poll found 2.7% of likely Republican voters backed her. In contrast, 19% of Republican voters backed Drazan, the former House Republican leader, and 14% backed attorney and business consultant Bob Tiernan, putting Drazan and Tiernan in a statistical tie.

In a statement, Barton did not respond to any allegations in the complaint and instead attacked Drazan, saying his campaign manager filed the complaint because Drazan was “unable to defend his woke left voting record.”

Black money groups are prohibited from contributing directly to political candidates at the federal level, but are allowed to donate directly to candidates in state races. Oregon does not have a contribution limit. However, federal tax law requires that any 501(c)(4) “not have political intervention as its primary business,” according to Oregon campaign finance attorney Dan Meek. “The IRS interpreted this as 50% of its expenses,” Meek wrote in an email. This includes supporting or opposing candidates for elected office at all levels.

Whether Oregon Pathfinder exceeded the 50% limit on activity opposing or supporting political candidates would depend on how much it spent on programs in 2021 and will spend in 2022. Its statement of income 2021 is not yet publicly available. In 2020, Oregon Pathfinder reported nearly $500,000 in total expenses, including management services provided by Barton and his longtime business partner, Jim Pasero. More than $400,000 was donated to “assist other organizations with support by providing funds for research, outreach, education, marketing, and other support in pursuing public policy issues”, according to the group’s federal income tax return. This included $110,000 to the libertarian organization Freedom Foundation, $163,000 to the Oregon Action PAC political action committee, which tends to support Republican candidates, $20,000 to a group called Common Sense Oregon and 6 $000 to Slavic Vote.

In 2018, Oregon Pathfinder was involved in Oregon’s gubernatorial contest through its $50,000 donation to Priority Oregon, another black money group that paid for ads attacking Democratic Governor Kate. Brown as she sought re-election, according to federal tax records.

—Hillary Borrud

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