Two campaign reform groups have asked the Justice Department to investigate a “social welfare” non-profit that runs commercials promoting the Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio.  


“The Tax Division of the Justice Department should promptly open an investigation into the millions of dollars spent to advance the candidacy of Marco RubioMarco Antonio Rubio15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban Parade of 2024 GOP hopefuls court House conservatives Hillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference MORE to determine if tax laws have been broken,” wrote campaign finance reformers at The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, in a letter to the department sent Thursday. 

“The publicly available facts indicate that Conservative Solutions Project… [has] no other mission than to advance the presidential aspirations of Marco Rubio and as such [is] in clear violation of the tax code.” 

The pro-Rubio group, Conservative Solutions Project, has attracted negative media attention in recent months due to its status as a “social welfare” non-profit organized under section 501(c)4 of the tax code. 

By using the “social welfare” portion of the tax code, the pro-Rubio group can keep its donors hidden, unlike other outside spending groups such as super-PACs, which have to disclose where their money is coming from. 

Conservative Solutions Project has already raised more than $15 million, is staffed by people close to Rubio, and has already spent more than $3 million – and possibly significantly more than that – on advertisements that promote policy issues but all happen to feature the Florida senator. 

"This is a blatant case in which the facts that have been published by various news organizations... clearly show that the purpose of this [group] is to support the Rubio campaign," said Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, and one of the letter's authors. 

Wertheimer and his co-author, the Campaign Legal Center's executive director Gerald Hebert, are complaining that far from promoting “the common good and general welfare of the people of the community as a whole”, as the law requires, the non-profit solely exists to boost Rubio’s 2016 candidacy. 

It is a charge denied by the spokesman for Conservative Solutions Project, Jeff Sadosky, who is also a spokesman for the pro-Rubio super-PAC, which is called "Conservative Solutions PAC." 

In an email to The Hill, Sadosky said the Wertheimer-Hebert letter makes clear “that DC’s left-wing elites are incredibly afraid that a positive conservative message focused on solutions will put additional pressure on the Obama Administration and Congress to enact conservative policies that will actually address badly needed reforms.”   

“As it has for the past two years, Conservative Solutions Project remains focused on one thing…advocating for a conservative agenda that will solve some of the most serious issues American families are facing.” 

Both Wertheimer and Hebert work for organizations that have been funded by liberal billionaire George Soros, leading to accusations that they are left-wing activists. Both men say their organizations are non-partisan, and Wertheimer points out that after the 2004 election they aggressively, and ultimately successfully, pursued illegal spending by Soros-backed groups that backed then-Democratic candidate John KerryJohn KerryOvernight Energy: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change through finance | Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' | Blinken says US falling behind China as global leader on climate change The shipping industry needs to move in line with the Paris Agreement MORE

Sadosky, insists that Conservative Solutions Project, while related to the pro-Rubio super-PAC, is interested in the broader good rather than in boosting Rubio. 

“They are sep­ar­ate and dis­tinct en­tit­ies,” he said in an April interview with National Journal

“One is fo­cused on sup­port­ing Marco Ru­bio’s po­ten­tial pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, and one is fo­cused on is­sue edu­ca­tion.” 

Wertheimer and Hebert argue there is no distinction and that both groups are effectively operating as arms of the Rubio campaign.  

They point to the “issue” advertisements run by the social welfare non-profit, and wonder how they are distinguishable from a campaign commercial promoting Rubio. 

In September, Conservative Solutions Project announced a national advertising buy for a commercial titled “Greatness.”  

The non-profit described the advertisement in its the press release as “focused on what has made our country great, and what it will take to ensure that greatness continues through the 21st century.”  

The “Greatness” advertisement stars one person: Marco Rubio. 

Another ad, titled “Clear Voices,” touts a hawkish national security stance, and again stars Rubio who makes a stirring speech about foreign policy.  

And yet another, titled “Bold Plan”, promotes the tax plan authored by Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Apple approves Parler's return to App Store | White House scales back response to SolarWinds, Microsoft incidents | Pressure mounts on DHS over relationship with Clearview AI 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban Apple approves Parler's return to App Store MORE.  

In July, Conservative Solutions Project announced an advertising campaign to rail against President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.  

The president of Conservative Solutions Project, Pat Shortridge – a former adviser to Rubio – said in a press statement: “Due to the overwhelming response to Conservative Solutions Project and our initial advertising campaign in opposition to President Obama’s dangerous nuclear deal with Iran, Conservative Solutions Project has extended our national cable ad buy, with more than $3.3 million spent to date.” 

But the Iran ad, again, stars only Rubio. 

Conservative Solutions Project is not the only group coming under scrutiny this election season for its interpretation of tax and campaign finance laws. 

The Hill published an investigation earlier in the year showing how almost every presidential candidate is using outside spending groups in questionable ways, knowing that they are unlikely to be punished because the agency charged with oversight and enforcement – the Federal Election Commission – is so politically deadlocked that many regard it as non-functioning. 

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush raised questions when, for months earlier in the year, he insisted he was still mulling his decision of whether to run for president.  

During that time Bush travelled aggressively, raising tens of millions of dollars in fundraisers all around the country for the group called “Right to Rise” – a group that would ultimately become his super-PAC. 

A pro-Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Cuba readies for life without Castro Chelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' MORE super-PAC, Correct The Record, is coming under continued scrutiny for exploiting a loophole in the law that the group argues allows it to coordinate directly with the Clinton campaign by publishing its work on the internet.  

Campaign legal experts dispute the Clinton campaign's interpretation, but in the current political climate it is unlikely any of these campaigns will suffer for their creativity.