One hitch: the continuing emergence of new nonprofits and the long lag time between the airing of a political ad and public disclosure means that many groups may not be included in ProPublica’s database. For these groups, it is necessary to request their 1024 form directly from the IRS. An IRS spokeswoman provided the following instruction: “You may request a copy of the [1024] Form from the IRS by FAXING a request that is prepared on your MEDIA LETTERHEAD to 1-513-263-5900, Attention: Group I: Media Liaison.”

The Special OPS OPSEC Education Fund, which just began airing ads this summer, is not included in ProPublica’s dark money database. So we faxed in a request for their 1024 forms on Tuesday, and are awaiting a response. Elliott of ProPublica, who employed this approach in his story last week about the misleading nonprofit in Ohio, said it took about two weeks for him to hear back from the IRS.

We hope to soon find out if the OPSEC Education Fund is abiding by campaign funding laws, and will let readers know. And if reporters around the country do similar stories about “social welfare” groups, CJR would love to see them.

Related stories:

The Ad Wars: How do we cover them?

The Ad Wars: Super PACs not super? Not so fast

The Ad Wars: The numbers don’t add up

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Sasha Chavkin covers political money and influence for CJR's United States Project, our politics and policy desk. He has written for ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, and The New York World. Follow him on Twitter @sashachavkin.