Companies & Sectors
Dark Money group spent on house race, then told IRS it didn’t

A Better America Now had spent money on mailers linking a congressional candidate to "left-wing extremists" and a controversy involving an endangered spider

Shortly before Election Day last year, mailers went out to Texas voters featuring pictures of a Democratic congressional candidate and a rare species of spider, whose discovery had forced stoppage of an important highway construction project.

“The same left-wing extremists who support Pete Gallego want more burdensome regulations that put the interests of spiders above our need to create more jobs,” the flier declared, referring to discovery of the endangered Braken Bat Cave meshweaver. “The best way to stop left-wing extremists from killing jobs is to vote against their hand-picked candidate Pete Gallego.”

The group that put out the mailer, A Better America Now, reported to the Federal Election Commission it had spent about $65,000 for the mailer and TV advertising in the hard-fought race to represent Texas’ 23rd district.

But in a tax return recently filed with the IRS, the group claimed it did not spend any money at all on “direct or indirect political campaign activities.”

The tax return is signed under the penalty of perjury by the group’s president, Bob Portrie, and the accounting firm LBA Group. Neither responded to requests for comment.

We first reported on A Better America Now earlier this year, showing it had told the IRS in a 2011 application for nonprofit status that it did not plan to spend any money on elections. (That document was sent to ProPublica last year by the IRS, even though the application was still pending and thus not supposed to be released.)

“This type of inaccurate reporting by electioneering nonprofit groups has a long history,” says Public Citizen’s Craig Holman, when asked about the group’s most recent filing. “It is rooted in the fact that the IRS almost never holds these groups accountable for such false declarations.”

A Better America Now was a bit player in the elections. But it’s also an example of the kind of increasingly common outside groups that inject anonymous money into political campaigns.

Such social welfare nonprofits are not supposed to have political campaign activity as their primary purpose — but the ambiguities around how the IRS measures such activity and how it screens the groups are at the center of the recent investigations of the IRS’s treatment of Tea Party groups.

ProPublica has documented how nonprofits that spent millions of dollars on ads in the 2010 elections failed to report or underreported that political spending to the IRS. The tax form that the groups are required to file with the IRS specifically asks for details on any campaign spending.

One of the curious things about A Better America Now is that, though the group spent money in a congressional and a state legislative race in southwest Texas, it is based a few miles off the beach near Jacksonville, Florida.

The president of A Better America Now, Portrie, is also the head of a consulting firm, the Fenwick Group. The two groups are listed at the same address. Fenwick’s website says it works with “organizations across the healthcare, financial services, insurance, retail and investment sectors.”

Portrie and Fenwick were also linked to ads run by another Florida-based social welfare nonprofit, America is Not Stupid, in last year’s U.S. Senate race in Montana. Ads by America is Not Stupid featured a talking baby complaining about alleged cuts to Medicare by President Obama, and referring to the baby’s stinking diaper.

In 2010, the New York Times reported on links between the Fenwick Group and yet another politically active nonprofit, the Coalition to Protect Seniors. Ads by that group featured the same talking baby ad.

In last year’s race in Texas, which attracted a lot of outside spending on both sides, the Democrat, Gallego, prevailed over Republican incumbent Quico Canseco.




Lax security authentication led to card-skimming frauds, says RBI

“The problems relating to illegal card transactions happened because we are interlinked, and the two-factor authentication and the other security measures did not exist in overseas market where these cards were cloned and used,” RBI executive director G Padmanabhan said

The recent instances of illegal debit card-skimming leading to money theft from other bank accounts can be attributed to non-practice of authentication processes in the jurisdiction where the money was withdrawn, Reserve Bank of India executive director G Padmanabhan said today.


“The problems relating to illegal card transactions happened because we are interlinked, and the two-factor authentication and the other security measures did not exist in overseas market where these cards were cloned and used,” he said while speaking at an event in Mumbai.


He attributed the issue as one of the negative fallouts of an interconnected world in which one lives.


“Technology has enabled an interlinked world and payment infrastructure. While this is welcome, being able to initiate payment transaction even from top of Mt Everest, please also remember that you are as good as the weakest link,” he said.


Recently, customers of private sector banks, including Axis Bank had complained of amounts getting withdrawn in euros overseas.


In its investigation, the law enforcement agencies found out that some ATMs were allegedly compromised by fraudsters to clone the cards.


After cloning, the account details were used to withdraw money in Greece.


Most of the customers have been compensated by the banks for the money withdrawn fraudulently.


Padmanabhan also questioned why banks are not using any alternatives to the usage of the fraud-prone cards, including near failed communication and mobile-based call options to avoid such instances.


Meanwhile, he also flagged the issue of violations in the money transfer service at banks, and said employees who indulge in any violations should not be allowed to continue in service.


“I don't know if crores of money have come out. But why people who dealt with these kind of transactions remain in the system?” he said.




4 years ago

Respected sir,
I am suffer that this fraudulent someone hack my sbi debit card no and do illegal online purchasing on 29/6/2013 worth rs49980 hacker will do five transaction rs 9994,9995,9996,9997 &9998 i complained to sbi bank and also complained to cybre crime cell am very dissapointed and very sad :( please help me sir..

Saurabh Srivastava


4 years ago

Why the average customers are put under pressure to subscribe such technological facilities, which are yet to be tested foolproof? The Banks are pushing aggressively such techsavy products even to rural mass who are novice to mobiles.

To make role model to the customers, my Bank first made it compulsory to its employees 5 years back and my AGM sarcastically asked how many crores will be there in my account, on my refusal to subscribe. Then I replied, the meagre monthly salary is crore worth for me.

India says no to asylum request by Edward Snowden

Snowden who leaked details of top-secret American mass surveillance programs, is currently in Russia

As expected, the Indian government on Tuesday rejected a request for asylum by US whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Snowden, who is on the run had made the request through the Indian Mission in Moscow three days ago.


A spokesperson in the external affairs ministry said, “I can confirm that earlier today our Embassy in Moscow did receive a communication dated 30 June from Mr Edward Snowden. That communication did contain a request for asylum. We have carefully examined the request. Following that examination we have concluded that we see no reason to accede to the request”.


Snowden, a US former technical contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who leaked details of top-secret American mass surveillance programs, is currently in Russia.


Interestingly, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had last month claimed that he had sought asylum in India through its mission in the UK. However, external affairs ministry had denied receiving any such request.


Snowden is charged with violating American espionage laws.


His leaks revealed that the US intelligence used a secret data-mining programme to monitor worldwide internet data to spy on various countries, including India.


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