The 45Committee

The 45Committee is one of the top 15 dark money groups examined by Issue One’s new “Dark Money Illuminated” report that has been spending millions of dollars in our elections since Citizens United without publicly disclosing their donors. Dark money groups frequently operate as attack dogs during campaigns, criticizing candidates from the shadows. Dark money groups also often push the envelope in terms of how much political spending they can engage in without running afoul of rules that prohibit them from existing primarily to influence elections. By masquerading as a trade association or “social welfare” nonprofit, dark money groups avoid the mandatory donor disclosure rules that would come with registering as a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections.

Here’s what Issue One’s year-long “Dark Money Illuminated” investigation revealed:

  • The 45Committee raised $49 million between April 2015 and March 2017
  • Issue One identified 3 donors to this dark money group
  • These donors collectively accounted for 2% of its funding.

Issue One found 3 donors that gave any amount since April 2015:

  • Wellspring Committee: $750,000
  • Judicial Crisis Network: $250,000
  • Ending Spending: $75,000

Note: These numbers have been rounded to two significant figures. Click here to see more details about these contributions — and all identified donors to this group — in Issue One’s exclusive database of dark money donors, and click here to learn more about how these contributors were identified. 


<p>Source: Issue One analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics and Federal Election Commission.</p>
Source: Issue One analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics and Federal Election Commission.

The 45Committee self-reported to the IRS that 47% of its total spending was related to political campaign activities.

It also told the FEC that 85% of its political spending was negative.

About the 45Committee

Before the GOP selected its presidential nominee in 2016, the 45Committee was founded in April 2015 as a “social welfare” organization under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the tax code to aid whomever that person would be. According to the Washington Post, this group is “primarily funded by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the family of TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.” These contributions, however, have never been publicly disclosed.

Tax records indicate that at least 60 percent of the money the 45Committee raised during its first two years came from four unidentified donors — who each gave $7.5 million. Seven other unknown donors contributed at least $1 million to the 45Committee during this period.

Brian Baker, a longtime political adviser to the Ricketts family, serves as the chairman and president of the 45Committee. Federal campaign finance records show that both the Adelson family and Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team, have also been major donors to the 45Committee’s sister super PAC, which is called Future45. Joe Ricketts’ son Todd Ricketts — who now serves as the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee — was, according to media reports, actively involved in raising funds for both groups ahead of the 2016 election.

In its second year of operation — a period that corresponded with the 2016 presidential election — nearly 48 percent of the 45Committee’s spending went toward “direct or indirect political campaign activities,” according to documents it filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The group has continued to spend money during the 2018 election cycle, typically aiding Republican candidates.