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Nonprofit With New Mexico Name Emerges out of DC

GOP attorneys are connected to the nonprofit.

May 10, 2013, 4:00 pm
By Justin Horwath

A prominent Republican attorney recently registered a new nonprofit in Washington, DC called New Mexico Competes, Inc.

The registration of the group could signal yet another political entity operating in New Mexico under a tax-exempt status.

The person listed as the nonprofit's agent, Craig Engle, is a decidedly political attorney. A former regulator at the Federal Election Commission, Engle went on to become the general counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee from 1995-2000, according to a biography on the webpage of his Washington, DC law firm, Arent Fox.

The specific tax-exempt status of the group is unclear. 

Nonprofits operating as political entities often do so as 501(c)4s. They've outpaced super PACs in electoral spending in recent years.

Named 501(c)4s for their status in the tax code, these dark-money groups don't have to disclose their donors.

Yet there are limitations on the political activities of these tax-exempt groups: The Internal Revenue Service says 501(c)4s must not spend a "majority" of their money and resources on political work. Nor are they allowed to endorse a candidate or party, according to the IRS. 

Under separate federal elections law outlined by the US Supreme Court in its Citizens United v. FEC ruling, groups can only raise and spend unlimited amounts in elections if they don't coordinate their spending with candidates.

But when it comes to campaign spending, it's the wild west. 

Regulations are not always enforced. 

Last month SFR obtained a leaked planning document for New Mexico Prosperity, a 501(c)4 formed by a Democratic consultant Jon Lipshutz. The document showed Lipshutz initially formed the nonprofit to protect Democrats in the Roundhouse and to oppose Republican Gov. Susana Martinez—not exactly a nonpartisan "social welfare" mission. He claimed the document doesn't reflect the activities of the 501(c)4. 

Nationally, the IRS is running into a public relations disaster with revelations that low-ranking employees auditing 501(c)4s flagged entities with conservative-sounding names, with words like "patriot" and "tea party" in them. 

A recent check with the federal government reveals the IRS doesn't have a record of granting New Mexico Prosperity tax-exempt status as of May 2.

Nor does the IRS have a record of New Mexico Competes, Inc. as of May 2. 

The entity was registered in Washington, DC on April 3 as a domestic nonprofit, says a representative at the Washington, DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The representative also confirms Engle is the registered agent of the nonprofit and that Engle was the only name attached to it. The representative confirmed the nonprofit's address as 1717 K Street Northwest, Washington, DC, 20036. That's the same address as Engle's office.

On or around March 26, someone registered the domain name newmexicocompetes.org.

Little other information exists about the group. 

Asked to comment, Engle directed SFR to call Sean Cairncross. A LinkedIn profile for a Sean Cairncross says he's worked as the general counsel the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

Cairncross still hasn't returned several SFR voicemails requesting that he comment on New Mexico Competes, Inc.


 

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