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The Top 10 Dark Money Donors -- That We Know Of, Sort Of

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AP Photo

The Center's employees manually inputted thousands of records from tax documents, including annual reports (called 990s) and applications for tax-exempt status (called 1024s), submitted to the IRS by 501(c)4 "social welfare" groups, 501(c)5 union groups, and 501(c)6 trade associations. The compiled information is now live on the Center's website, OpenSecrets.org.

As the center points out, the biggest part of the data details grants to, from, and between politically active non-profits. While these groups don't have to disclose their donors, they do have to report grants to other organizations. The Center found that grants to political active non-profits amount to almost $200 million so far. That number is soon expected to rise dramatically. Non-profit groups have an 11-month window following the end of their fiscal years in which to submit 990s, meaning that most 2012 filings will not be turned in until this fall.

The grant information is useful. We can't know the individuals or corporations behind the hundreds of millions of dollars received and spent by dark money groups. But the figures show us which groups have been most active giving to politically active non-profits, getting us one layer of the onion closer to the source of millions of dark dollars.

Here are the top 10 politically active non-profits ranked by their giving to other non-profits, as compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (The Karl Rove-linked Crossroads GPS ranks No. 3 on the list):

1. Center to Protect Patient Rights
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of money given: $55,740,985
Top recipient: American Future Fund

2. Sea Change Foundation
Non-profit type: 501(c)3
Amount of grant money given: $26,986,150
Top recipient: League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

3. Crossroads GPS
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $13,875,000
Top recipient: Americans for Tax Reform

4. TC4 Trust
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $11,787,800
Top recipient: American Commitment

5. Donors Trust
Non-profit type: 501(c)3
Amount of grant money given: $8,832,250
Top recipient: Americans for Prosperity Foundation

6. Republican Jewish Coalition
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $8,000,000
Top recipient: American Action Network, Crossroads GPS (tie)

7. Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America
Non-profit type: 501(c)6
Amount of grant money given: $7,100,000
Top recipient: American Action Network

8. Green Tech Action Fund
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $5,775,300
Top recipient: League of Conservation Voters

9. Advocacy Fund
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $5,632,488
Top recipient: League of Conservation Voters

10. Alliance for Freedom
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $4,190,000
Top recipient: Alliance for America's Future

Correction: After this article was published, the Center for Responsive Politics updated its database to show that the top recipient of money from the Sea Change Foundation was the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, not the League of Conservation Voters. This article has been updated accordingly.

About The Author

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Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website?s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl@talkingpointsmemo.com