Gov Bullock Sues IRS Over Dark Money Disclosure Rules

Jul 24, 2018

Governor Steve Bullock filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service Tuesday over its decision to loosen financial disclosure requirements for so-called dark money groups.

The policy change the IRS made last week means that some non-profit organizations that can spend unlimited money on political ads no longer have to turn over the names of their largest donors to government tax officials.

While the IRS previously kept track of those names, the information was not available to the public.

The rule change for the IRS to not collect donor lists at all is a win for conservatives who say that information steps on privacy rights.

Governor Bullock announced his suit, filed in federal court in Great Falls, in a video on Twitter.

“We’ve been working for 10 years to make sure that corporations can’t control our elections," Bullock said. "Just last week secretary of Treasury made it so that corporations, foreign interests, anybody could give to dark money groups and the IRS wouldn’t even collect their names. I think Americans certainly deserve better.” 

Montana’s lawsuit against the IRS and Treasury Department alleges the federal government illegally interfered in Montana's ability to administer its tax laws.

The suit says the donor information no longer collected by the IRS played a significant role in ferreting out bad actors. The IRS says it can still request donor information during a tax audit. 

In 2015, Bullock, with bipartisan help in the Montana Legislature, passed the DISCLOSE Act, which requires more reporting on the spending by political groups trying to influence elections.

Bullock has made campaign finance reform a signature issue since he was Montana’s attorney general, and through his two terms as governor. He’s increasingly taking the message to a national audience. 

In a recent fundraising email sent out by the Big Sky Values PAC, which is funding Bullock’s travel nationally ahead of the mid-term elections and his possible bid for president in 2020, Bullock wrote that action needs to be taken while, "The Trump administration allows dark money to hijack our political system even further."