Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. 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 the Axios Closer newsletter 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!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

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 the Axios Sports newsletter. 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 the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

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 the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

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!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

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

1 hour ago - Sports

Robot umpires inch closer to calling MLB games

The Automated Ball-Strike system (ABS), the tech powering what's colloquially known as robo-umps, is inching ever closer to the big leagues.

Driving the news: The independent Atlantic League — which has partnered with MLB since 2019 — last week announced it was doing away with robo-umps after testing them for the past season-and-a-half.

FBI conducts "court-authorized" search of Rep. Henry Cuellar's home

Rep. Henry Cuellar. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The FBI said it conducted a "court-authorized" search on Wednesday in the area of the Texas home of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

State of play: "The FBI was present in the vicinity of Windridge Drive and Estate Drive in Laredo conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity," an FBI spokesperson told Axios, adding that they "cannot provide further comment on an ongoing investigation."

Big Tech lobbies hard against looming antitrust bill

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big Tech CEOs, including Apple's Tim Cook and Google's Sundar Pichai, have been jawboning lawmakers as a Senate committee takes up a key antitrust bill Thursday.

Why it matters: The bill prompting this lobbying frenzy could upend how tech's giants do business, and tech's critics see this as a "now or never" moment for Congress to check the industry's power.