Press Releases

End Citizens United Files IRS Complaint Calling for Investigation of Laxalt-Led Americans for Public Trust

Feb 15, 2022

End Citizens United (ECU) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against Americans for Public Trust (APT), a 501c3 group led by former NRCC Research Director Caitlin Sutherland and Adam Laxalt, currently a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Nevada, who has a history of flouting legal regulations. The complaint calls into question Americans for Public Trust’s tax exempt status after the organization appeared to violate the IRS’ standards of a 501c3.

Click here to read coverage of the complaint in The Daily Beast.

APT was incorporated in January 2020 and was given 501c3 tax-exempt status in May 2020, certifying that “the organization is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes.” Since then, APT ran 3 television advertisements, all focusing on attacking Democratic politicians and officials that do not serve their exempt purpose. Their ads contained intentionally misleading information, including provably false claims about President Joe Biden’s policy on re-opening schools and lying about dark money support for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s 2018 re-election by falsifying the existence of an article from the Center for Responsive Politics. During the time that these ads aired, Laxalt was listed as Counsel for APT and Sutherland was listed as APT’s Executive Director.

“APT exists for one reason and one reason alone: to help the Republican Party win elections. It’s the height of hypocrisy for this GOP group to launch false political attacks about corruption and unethical behavior, while inappropriately receiving tax benefits as a charitable nonprofit,” said End Citizens United President Tiffany Muller. “This organization is run by political operatives and Adam Laxalt, a Republican politician with a history of trouble with the law, so it should come as no surprise that they would try to skirt the rules. Abusing their non-profit status for self-serving political purposes is a corrupt, shady tactic and they must be held accountable. The IRS should immediately investigate their tax-exempt status.”

ECU’s complaint states that given the false information and obvious partisan nature of APT’s work and advertisements, their tax-exempt status should be investigated. The IRS mandates that 501c3 groups must exclusively operate for “religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes” and that using a 501c3 for any purpose beyond these is grounds for losing tax-exempt status. Since APT’s operations have been focused on political attack ads, which contain intentionally false information, and given the partisan background of its Executive Director and former Counsel, it is clear their purpose is not to educate, but instead to advance Republican political causes.

After noting how APT’s ads undermine its tax-exempt status, the complaint concludes: “Americans for Public Trust has produced and disseminated provocative television advertisements that appear, in veracity and in tone, more like political attack ads than educational instruction to the public on important community matters. This is perhaps to be expected, given the partisan, political background of its Executive Director Caitlin Sutherland and longtime counsel Adam Laxalt. However, the standard of substantiation required for a communication to be considered “educational” by the IRS is wholly distinct from a determination by a television station that a political advertisement is sufficiently truthful to be on the air… In light of the fact that Americans for Public Trust has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television advertisements that are not in furtherance of any exempt purpose, we urge the IRS to take immediate action to investigate whether the organization’s 501(c)(3) status should be revoked.”

Click here to read the full complaint.

Click here to view the evidence against APT.