Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A legal complaint against a prominent pro-Trump group will test new standards for so-called dark money groups that have the potential to reshape the nation's campaign finance landscape.

Why it matters: The groups, politically active nonprofits, funneled more than $1 billion in untraceable cash into the 2020 elections. A landmark 2018 court ruling triggered new donor disclosure requirements, but few groups have modified their behavior.

What's new: A complaint filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission could force the issue. It was lodged by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning ethics watchdog group.

  • It accuses Turning Point Action, the activist arm of pro-Trump youth group Turning Point USA, of illegally concealing the donors behind canvassing campaigns in last year's presidential election and January's Senate contests in Georgia.
  • "Turning Point Action strongly disputes the mischaracterizations made by CREW," a spokesperson told Axios in an email.
  • The group "is focused largely on our social welfare mission," the spokesperson added, and "takes all political activity with utmost seriousness and has invested significant time, attention and top professional personnel into ensuring we are in compliance with all FEC guidance."

The backstory: Turning Point raised seven-figure sums last year with explicit pleas to support its pro-Trump political efforts.

  • “We need your support to beat (Joe) Biden and Kamala Harris. Your contribution will helps (sic) us immensely expand our grassroots efforts,” read a typical fundraising request from the group.
  • Its fundraising page was clear about the political nature of the activities it was asking donors to finance. Its donations, a disclaimer on the page said, "will be used in connection with federal elections.”

Between the lines: That language raises some thorny legal issues for the group. Following federal court rulings in 2018 and 2020, nonprofits are required to disclose the identities of donors who give at least $200 to support political activities.

  • Federal law requires that anyone spending more than $250 on independent expenditures — or paid communications advocating for the election or defeat of a federal political candidate — identify donors who financed their political activity.
  • The FEC had interpreted that language to mean that donors only needed to be disclosed if they had financed a specific, identified expenditure, as opposed to political expenditures in general.
  • CREW sued the FEC in 2016, challenging that interpretation. In 2018, a federal court sided with CREW, ruling the law requires disclosure of donors who financed nonprofit politicking generally — not just a specific ad or other expenditure.
  • The FEC followed up with guidance of its own. As of October 2018, nonprofits must disclose donors who support efforts to sway federal elections, including donations "for the purpose of furthering any independent expenditure."

The big picture: That updated guidance hasn't changed much on the ground. Donor disclosure to politically active nonprofits remains sparse, as the groups continue to insist their donors weren't chipping in to support political activity explicitly.

  • The notoriously deadlocked FEC has made enforcement action on such a politically contentious issue unlikely, so there's not much of an incentive to modify behavior.
  • The ballooning amounts of so-called dark money in the American political system make legal standards for disclosure particularly salient.
  • According to the Center for Responsive Politics, dark money spending in the 2020 cycle exceeded $1 billion for the first time — and heavily favored Biden and Democrats.

The bottom line: CREW's complaint against Turning Point has the potential to break the enforcement logjam and provide more clarity about what is and is not required of politically active nonprofits.

  • The explicit language of Turning Point's fundraising appeals makes it far more difficult for the group to claim its donors weren't chipping in to support "any" political spending.
  • The FEC sent the group a letter last month, prodding it to disclose contributors by March 16.
  • The deadline came and went without a reply. But the Turning Point Action spokesperson said it didn't initially receive the letter and is in touch with the FEC about extending that deadline.

Go deeper

Super typhoon Surigae explodes to Cat. 5 intensity

Super Typhoon Surigae seen on satellite imagery Saturday morning east of the Philippines. (CIRA/RAMMB)

Super Typhoon Surigae surged in intensity from a Category 1 storm on Friday to a beastly Category 5 monster on Saturday, with maximum sustained winds estimated at 190 mph with higher gusts.

Why it matters: This storm — known as Typhoon Bising in the Philippines — is just the latest of many tropical cyclones to undergo a process known as rapid intensification, a feat that studies show is becoming more common due to climate change. It weakened slightly, to the equivalent of a strong Category 4 storm, on Sunday.

3 hours ago - World

Biden adviser warns "there will be consequences" for Russia if Navalny dies

The Biden administration warned the Russian government "that there will be consequences" if jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday.

The big picture: Sullivan also defended President Biden for not mentioning Navalny in a Thursday speech about Russia or in a Tuesday call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the White House aims to deal with the issue "privately and through diplomatic channels."

3 killed, 2 wounded overnight in Kenosha bar shooting

Three people died and two were hospitalized with serious injuries after a gunman entered bar in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, the police department said in a statement on Sunday. Police responded to the shooting at around 12:42 a.m. and the suspect has not been found.

The big picture: The midnight shooting is the latest in a string of deadly mass shootings to hit the U.S. since March, fueling a debate in Washington about how to regulate the weapons.