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Watchdogs Seek Probe Into Koch Group's Support of Joni Ernst 2014 Campaign

Image: Watchdogs Seek Probe Into Koch Group's Support of Joni Ernst 2014 Campaign
Sen. Joni Ernst (Getty Images) 

By    |   Thursday, 28 Jan 2016 04:11 PM

Two watchdog groups asked the Obama administration Thursday to investigate whether a nonprofit organization backed by the Koch brothers violated federal laws when it spent more than $250,000 to support Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst's campaign in 2014.

The left-leaning organizations Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Center for Media and Democracy filed complaints with the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service, Politico reports.

They contend that the Koch group Trees of Liberty spent most of its money on political purposes, while claiming otherwise on tax forms.

According to the complaints, Trees of Liberty was established seven months after Ernst, then an Iowa state senator and a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard, met with the donor network established by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

Trees of Liberty then began an extensive advertising campaign that included $257,000 in television spots throughout Iowa and a companion Web effort that slammed Ernst’s strongest rival in the Republican primary race, Mark Jacobs, a retired energy executive, Politico reports.

Jacobs had previously supported a plan to limit carbon emissions, which was opposed by the Koch brothers, along with their company, Koch Industries.

More than half of the $440,000 raised by Trees of Liberty in 2014 was spent on the ads bashing Jacobs, according to the complaints. A majority of the funds came from the main group in the Koch network, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.

This data proved that Trees of Liberty violated its 501(c)4 tax status, which allows groups to conceal their donors, as long as the most of the funds are on nonpolitical "social welfare" purposes, according to the complaints.

Later in her 2014 campaign, Ernst was ripped by her Democratic opponent, Rep. Bruce Braley, for her ties to the Koch brothers.

Representatives for Trees of Liberty and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce did not immediately respond to requests from Politico for comment.

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Two watchdog groups asked the Obama administration Thursday to investigate whether a nonprofit organization backed by the Koch brothers violated federal laws when it spent more than $250,000 to support Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst's campaign in 2014.
watchdog, groups, call, probe, koch, brothers, joni ernst, campaign
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2016-11-28
Thursday, 28 Jan 2016 04:11 PM
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