Coal Interests Fueling Gingrich’s Cash-Burning 527

December 16, 2010 3:50 a.m.

The recently released IRS filings of Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future makes a few things clear: the coal industry loves him; he’s a fan of private planes; and for a self proclaimed fiscal conservative, he’s getting a measly return on the millions he’s throwing at a Christian telemarketing company that raises cash for the 527 group.

American Solutions, which is dedicated to “creating the next generation of solutions that will ensure the United States remains the safest, freest and most prosperous country in the world” — raked in $14.5 million in contributions last year, according to IRS filings.Over half of the group’s money — $7.9 million — went to InfoCision, a telemarketing company that specializes in political, Christian and nonprofit fundraising. They brought in $9.2 million, a 16 percent return on the investment. That means that for every dollar donated to Newt’s group through InfoCision, the company kept 86 cents. An InfoCision spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.

American Solutions 527’s second biggest expense for 2009 was $1,525,393 in payments to Moby Dick Airways Ltd., which books private chartered flights. His penchant for riding in style has been well documented: according to an earlier TPM analysis of the expenditures by the similarly named American Solutions PAC, that part of the Gingrich organizational network spent $677,539 on private jets flights between April to June of this year.

As a 527 nonprofit issues advocacy group, American Solutions for Winning the Future is required to file a 990 form with the IRS, which indicates their biggest donors. But they’re not subject to federal campaign finance law, allowing them to accept unlimited donations directly from corporations and individuals.

So whose deep pockets bankrolled the organization? According to a TPM analysis, the largest contributions listed came from oil, coal and electric companies. And if you’re compiling a blacklist of the country’s worst environmental corporate offenders, the IRS filing of Newt’s group is a good place to start.

Peabody Energy, which gave Gingrich’s group $250,000, owns the infamous Kayenta Mine in Arizona, which was named one of the most dangerous mines in the nation earlier this year. In Newsweek‘s 2009 ranking of the environmental footprints and policies of the 500 largest American corporations, Peabody Energy came in dead last. Back in 2006, they called for doubling U.S. coal consumption by 2025.

American Electric Power, which ranks 40th in the Toxic 100 Air Polluters index, chipped in $100,000. Plains Exploration & Production, another big donor, owns properties that have on-and offshore drilling operations in California, the Gulf Coast region, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mid-Continent Region and the Rocky Mountains.

But the energy industry wasn’t alone. Crow Holdings LLC, an investment firm based in Dallas headed by Swift Boat Veterans backer Harlan Crow, gave Gingrich’s organization $250,000. The Workforce Fairness Institute, a pro-business lobbying group best known for its vocal opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, ponied up $150,000 in 2009. That legislation, which would give employees the right to unionize if a majority of workers express a desire for unionization, is opposed by many pro-business groups who worry that the cost of labor would rise.

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