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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Who is the "Contributor No. 8, Anonymous" Behind McCain Political Advisor's Tax-Exempt Reform Institute?

One of the primary purposes of McCain-Feingold-style of campaign finance disclosure is to insure that everybody knows who is contributing how much to candidates for political office, right? Apparently there are limits to such disclosure, if the IRS Form 990 of a tax-exempt organization closely allied with Sen. John McCain, R-AZ is an indication.

It's the Alexandria, VA-based Reform Institute that provided McCain political advisor Rich Davis with $110,000 in consulting fees in 2003 and paid him $50,003 for "legal services," according to the organization's most recently available IRS Form 990 tax return. All non-profits are required to file the 990 with the IRS, and to provide copies of the return on request to all requestors.

You can also access the 990s for most non-profits on the Internet at Guidestar.org. Just click on the headline above this posting to go to Guidestar. Then do an advanced search for "Reform Institute" of Alexandria, VA, EIN # 52-2100684.

Davis, who is listed as "President/Director as needed," received no regular salary or expense compensation, nor did "Secretary/Treasurer/Director as needed" R. Rebecca Donatelli or "Director" Jean Inman. The Reform Institute's Executive Director, Cecilia Martinez, was paid a salary of $59,000. The organization listed more than $500,000 in income for 2003. The New York Times reports income doubled last year to more than $1.3 million. The organization's 2004 990 is not yet available via Guidestar.

The Reform Insitute's most recent 990 return also includes the following statement regarding the "Contributor No. 8, Anonymous" referenced in the above headline:

"The donation from contributor No. 8 was received subject to the condition that the organization ensure that the donor remain anonymous. While the organization understands that it is obliged to supply the donor information it has to the IRS in the event of a specific request by the agency, inadvertent disclosure of donor information by IRS personnel, including posting on the Internet through the Guidestar web site, create an unacceptably high risk that information presented on this schedule may become public."

Is it not odd that an organization supposedly devoted to cleaning up the corruption of campaign finance is itself unwilling to disclose the identity of at least one of its donors? The Reform Institute provides no other information - such as the amount of his or her contribution - about the anonymous donor.

Davis told The New York Times earlier this week that his organization had received a donation from an elected Republican official, but said not even McCain knows the identity of that donor. It remains only speculation to assume that "Contributor No 8, Anonymous" is the same donor Davis was referring to as a Republican office-holder.

The Reform Institute does publish a lengthy list of its other donors on its web site, which you can view here. Note among the contributors of $50,000 or more the presence of the Tides Foundation, which was briefly in the news during the 2004 presidential campaign when it was reported the foundation received heavy financial support fromTeresa Heinz-Kerry.

Meanwhile, CaptainsQuarters is piling on details about many of the Reform Institute's other donors, among which he found groups that actively support abortion and environmental extremism, among other causes one would not expect to find behind one of the nation's most prominent GOP office-holders. Check the Captain's posts, including "Mr. Clean" here, "Screaming Hypocrisy" here and "Revisiting the Keating 5" here.