Is a Koch brothers vehicle having second act as super PAC?

magnifying glass over money

A new super PAC shares a compliance officer and part of its name with entities in the complex political money machine set up by libertarian-leaning Charles and David Koch, owners of Wichita-based Koch Industries, a recent filing captured by Sunlight’s Real-Time Federal Campaign Finance tracker shows.

In the same week Bloomberg News reported that a new phalanx of Ted Cruz super PACs already cleared $31 million to support the prospective Republican nominee’s campaign, Sunlight found what appears to be a super PAC spinoff of a high-spending nonprofit in the libertarian-leaning Koch brothers’ political network, formed in advance of the presidential race.

The new political committee, American Encore Action, registered with the Federal Election Commission on April 3. Its name is similar to that of American Encore, known formerly as the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR), a dark money group that rebranded during the 2014 elections after it was caught up in an investigation by California’s state election ethics watchdog.

Chris Marston, an Alexandria, Va., based campaign compliance consultant, is the new super PAC’s treasurer, documents show. His large portfolio of conservative clients includes past work for the California Future Fund, another dark money group in the Koch brother’s network. In a lengthy investigation settled in 2013, California’s Fair Political Practice Commission found that CPPR, American Encore’s predecessor, indirectly funneled more than $4 million to California Future Fund in 2012.

Calls and emails from Sunlight to Marston, American Encore and American Encore Action seeking clarification on any affiliation between the two groups were not immediately returned.

American Encore Action, the super PAC, will have to disclose all of its donors to the public, unlike the CPPR/American Encore, which has been one of the most vocal opponents of new IRS regulations that would draw new, stricter disclosure rules for dark money groups. The group reportedly spent $10 million on a national ad campaign against the proposed rules.

A central question of any proposed regulation would be divining what portion of yearly spending a nonprofit may devote to direct political advocacy — called independent expenditures by the FEC. Because these groups, known as social welfare groups, cannot have politics as their main purpose, they cannot spend more than half of their funds on political activities. Such groups, which do not disclose their donors, spent more than $150 million on ads that explicitly supported or opposed candidates in the 2014 cycle.

As a super PAC, American Encore Action can raise sums in unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations and labor unions.