Seven years before the Supreme Court changed the nature of campaign spending as we know it, a New York philanthropy began making massive donations to an arm of one of the most influential conservative forces in American politics.
The gifts, eventually totaling about $19 million, went little noticed at the time.
But now, a source familiar with the matter tells TPM, some of those donations are the focus of an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that could shed light on the growing and largely untamed role tax-exempt groups are playing in politics.
The investigation, which was first reported late Tuesday by the New York Times, is looking at a series of gifts the New York philanthropy known as the Starr Foundation gave to the charitable arm of the pro-business powerhouse U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The source said the probe is examining whether those gifts were then illegally funneled to the chamber’s political causes through a series of loans.
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