When faced with requests for documents about itself, the privatized presidential election corporation Americans Elect has practiced a policy of delaying, obfuscating and outright refusing the public. It’s nice to see that not all 501(c) political corporations behave this way. The Common Sense Coalition, formed by a spinoff of Americans Elect advisors, has departed from Americans Elect’s habit of opacity by sharing its IRS Form 1023 — its formal request for non-profit status — with me by e-mail.
I’m happy to share the coalition’s Form 1023 here. It contains all sorts of interesting pieces of information about the 501(c) corporation — information about current fundraising, fundraising plans, financial benefit accruing to corporate leaders if any, descriptions of purpose, names of primary and secondary leadership, and foreign interest are just the beginning. The federal government requires 501(c) corporations to make this form available to the public upon request, and for good reason — a form like this allows the American people to glimpse the inner workings of the artificial entities that drive American politics, and to assess whether the corporation’s conduct is in alignment with its message.
To be clear, The Common Sense Coalition’s practice of disclosure (to be continued later this month with a promised Form 990) is no more than what federal regulations require. But compliance like that is unusual. What federal regulations require and what political corporations do no longer align. Sadly, as the behavior of Americans Elect and its cousin No Labels demonstrate, many political corporations simply refuse to do what’s required of them. They expect to get away with it. By following the rules and releasing information to the public, The Common Sense Coalition shows us that a more healthy political culture is possible.