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Mystery group spends $1 million opposing Obama

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Less than three weeks before Election Day, a new mystery group dropped nearly $1 million on an anti-Obama expenditure, according to records.

Citizen Awareness Project appears to be a nonprofit organization. It reported the independent expenditure opposing President Barack Obama Thursday, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission. The entire sum — $994,000 — was paid to Stephen Clouse & Associates Inc., a Virginia firm that specializes in raising money for its clients via direct mail, according to its website.

The firm has produced marketing materials for the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, both of which count billionaire businessman and financier of conservative causes Charles Koch as a board member. Citizen Awareness Project has no website that the Center could find and no Internal Revenue Service documents appear to have been posted online.

Thursday’s filing was the first reported political expenditure made by the group. The group is likely a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit. Such organizations can function like super PACs but are not required to register with the FEC or disclose their donors. They are required to file reports with the IRS.

The group’s address is the same as Zahkem Law LLC in Denver, Colo., where its treasurer, Charlie Smith, is a law clerk specializing in election law. Smith is former chairman of the College Republican National Committee and the founder of a lesser-known pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC, Solutions 2012, which raised $67,000.

All of its contributions came from small donors. Stephen Clouse & Associates works to “turn ordinary donors into major contributors,” according to its site, and focuses on getting donors to give “mega gifts” to its client-nonprofits. Smith did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

In other outside spending news:  

Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

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